PARIS (Reuters) - Transport financier Doric Lease Corp said it would buy 20 Airbus EAD.PA A380 aircraft in a deal worth $8 billion at list prices and could snap up more, putting the planemaker on track to hit its full-year order target for the superjumbo.
Airbus is aiming to sell 25 A380s this year, up from nine in 2012, when orders were hurt by the discovery of wing cracks that shortened the life of certain parts and forced the company to make costly repairs.
“If those last five are still available at year-end and we can get a good deal on them, we’ll certainly think about it,” Doric Chief Executive Mark Lapidus told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Paris Airshow on Monday.
Two more A380 orders are already in the pipeline from German flagship carrier Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), whose board has approved the purchase, but its executive vice president of group fleet management, Nico Buchholz, said on Monday it was not yet clear when that deal would be finalized.
With a fleet of 35 aircraft and $6 billion worth of aviation assets under management based on the original cost, Ireland-based Doric is considerably smaller than industry leaders such as GECAS (GE.N) and International Lease Finance Corp (AIG.N).
It is the world’s 11th biggest aircraft lessor overall, but a number of A380 transactions - including for Emirates EMIRA.UL and Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) - have pushed it to the No. 3 spot for the leasing of wide-body aircraft.
That gave the leasing company clout to put what Lapidus called “tremendous pressure” on Airbus over what he felt was a lack of communication on the A380 wing cracks.
“We definitely told Airbus, ‘look guys, you’ve got a fire on your hands and you need to come out with some information’,” Lapidus told Reuters. “There was a bit of a clash.”
Still, Lapidus said he believed in the long-term future of the A380 and said he was seeing lively interest from airlines for A380 leases, which cost about $2.5 million a month.
“We see how airlines that do not yet have the A380 are interested in it and approach us and ask questions, which shows us that there is pent-up demand for this aircraft,” he told a news conference.
“If anything, we are perhaps under-ordering the A380.”
He said there were about 10-15 airlines that were potential first-time customers for the new A380s but said he hoped all 20 aircraft could be placed in only two or three transactions, without being more specific.
The order is expected to be finalized within a few months, with deliveries due to start in 2016.
In contrast to larger peer ILFC, Lapidus said he did not believe it would be difficult to place used A380s down the line because it was relatively easy and inexpensive to reconfigure the aircraft for a new customer, at less than $5 million.
“I‘m actually already seeing interest from customers for the first A380s coming off lease at Singapore Airlines in 2017/18,” he said.
ILFC CEO Henri Courpron said earlier on Monday he was not warming to the superjumbo after his company scrapped an order for 10 A380s more than two years ago.
“The A380 is a great plane. But it’s not a great plane for our business,” he said. “The first lease is not a problem. But what happens five or 10 years down the line? Nobody has done a used A380 deal yet. I don’t want to be the first one.”
Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Editing by James Regan