China's biz jet-setters: no longer flying under the radar

Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:43am EST
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By James Pomfret and Alison Leung

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Flanked by an entourage of assistants and advisors, Chinese mining tycoon Lian Guangming flitted from one luxury jet to another at the Asian Aerospace Expo in Hong Kong.

"Not bad," said Lian, from Inner Mongolia as he emerged from the plush, leather and wood paneled interior of a $55 million Bombardier Lear Jet 60XR earlier this week.

"If I like something, I'll buy it."

With the aviation industry now booming in the world's second largest economy, China's passengers are expected to account for around a quarter of the world's 800 million new travelers by 2014. Dozens of new airports under construction, and the executive jet market is expected to ride the crest of this wave.

Forbes' latest global rich list showed the number of Chinese billionaires doubling over the past year to 115, the first time any country outside the United States, which has 413 billionaires, had more than 100.

But China has only around 200 private aircraft, according to official estimates, far fewer than the 11,000 in the United States.

U.S. executives, including those at government-owned General Motors Co, are now getting back on corporate planes as the economy slowly recovers after the financial crisis.

Billionaire Warren Buffett's NetJets Inc has recently placed order up to 120 jets from Bombardier Inc in a deal that could worth more than $6.7 billion.   Continued...