Airbus firms up US$11.5 bil plane order from HNA's Avolon

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BEIJING (Dec 7): Airbus SE firmed up an order for 100 single-aisle aircraft from Avolon, the aircraft-leasing company owned by China’s HNA Group Co.

The deal, worth US$11.5 billion before discounts, seals an outline accord unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in July, the Irish lessor said in a statement Friday. Aircraft orders typically come in stages, and aren’t counted against order totals until finally signed off.

The announcement provides a late boost for Airbus’s 2018 tally after it had struggled to finalize deals, following the exit of long-time sales chief John Leahy. It’s a win for new marketing boss Christian Scherer, though the original accord was secured by Eric Schulz, who left the post after only nine months.

Buying planes for Avolon goes against the grain for HNA, which has been trying to offload assets, including a 70% stake in the lessor, as it faces a cash crunch, following a global acquisition spree. The conglomerate was handed an emergency loan in excess of US$1 billion by the Chinese government. Avolon, based in Dublin, operates independently and has its own balance sheet.

The purchase comprises 75 A320neo aircraft and 25 slightly larger A321neos. The planes are due to be delivered from 2023 and will take Avolon’s orderbook with Airbus to more than 220 single-aisle aircraft, as well as 45 wide-bodies.

Airbus has yet to firm up some other orders announced at the Farnborough expo, including a critical 34-plane deal for the slow-selling A330neo jet. The bulk of aircraft payments typically come at the time of delivery, so manufacturers are always eager to turn outline accords into binding deals.