Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bigger, faster luxury jets in demand: Market boosted by CEOs seeking global range

Dallas: Corporate executives are increasingly seeking jets that can fly as far as New York to Shanghai and cruise just under the speed of sound, tilting the market toward the biggest, most luxurious models.
 

Jets sold over the 11 years through 2022 will average $25 million (Dh91.8 million) per plane, according to a study by Honeywell International, up 8.7 per cent from an estimate of $23 million last year.

The market is likely to reach $250 billion for the 11-year period, up from $230 billion in a similar period through 2011.

“It has to do with the global growth patterns and the need for companies to reach out to other parts of the world to do business and to do it productively,” said Robert Wilson, president of the Business & General Aviation unit of Honeywell, which released the survey before this week’s National Business Aviation Association conference in Orlando, Florida.

Demand for jets that don’t need refuelling on intercontinental flights is propping up the market after deliveries of mid-sized and light planes fell last year.

Canada’s Bombardier is leading the drive with the Global 8000, which will travel 14,631 kilometres. General Dynamics’s Gulfstream is set to deliver the first G650, which travels 12,964km and boasts a top speed of Mach 0.925, this year.

Those jets have $50 million-plus price tags, more than 10 times that of models that can’t make it across the US without refuelling. Of jet deliveries last year, heavy jets rose by 2.8 percentage points to 41 per cent while light jets’ share of deliveries slipped 3.1 percentage points to 40 per cent, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Large plane sales have been buoyed by big companies that have better weathered weak growth and can afford long-range jets, said Brad Thress, chief of business jets for Cessna, a unit of Providence, R.I.-based Textron.

Earlier this year, Cessna announced its longest-distance jet ever, the Citation Longitude, with a range of 7,408km. The rapid growth for jets in emerging markets also favours large planes, Steve Ridolfi, president of Bombardier’s business- jet unit, said in an interview.

In countries like China, corporate jets are used mostly by company owners who travel to Europe or the United States. Also, China doesn’t have the general-aviation airports and services that allow more use of small aircraft for domestic flights.

“These emerging markets grow first from the top. It’s the billionaires who buy first, and then you go down the pipe,” Ridolfi said in an interview. “So when you talk about China, it’s big airplanes first.” In the next five years, the number of jets in China will increase an average of 30 per cent per year, Wilson said. Russia will grow 15 per cent and India 18 per cent per year.

Participants in the survey of 1,500 companies with private fleets pointed to range as the top reason for choosing an aircraft, Wilson said.

From 2012 through 2022, large jets are forecast to account for 42 per cent of planes sold and 69 per cent of the total dollar cost, Wilson said. Mid-size jets will make up about 28 per cent and only a fifth of the dollar value. Light and mid-sized jets, which sell best in mature markets like the US and Europe, will rebound when smaller companies have more clarity about the US taxes and budget cuts, Europe’s recession and the slowdown in Asia, Thress said.

Many people start out with a light jet, such as the four-seater Citation Mustang, and then trade up for larger ones as their business grows, he said. “The interest is out there,” Thress said in an interview.

“We just think that people could use a little bit of confidence and stability in the economy.”

Cessna’s jet deliveries fell in the quarter that ended in September to 41 from 47 a year ago after having increased in the previous two quarters. The company expects to begin deliveries of the Citation M2, which will be its second-smallest jet, in the second half of 2013.

Gulfstream delivered 28 large jets in the quarter through September, up from 20 the previous year, General Dynamics, based in Falls Church, Virginia, said in an October 24 statement. The longer-range jets from Bombardier and Gulfstream have created more competition for customers of Boeing’s business jets, which have less range at 11,482km although about three times the cabin space, said Steve Taylor, president of Boeing’s business jet unit.

“While we’re still pretty different products, there are some customers in between those products,” Taylor said.

“When they were able to do city pairs we couldn’t, well, that would drive some customers across.” Honeywell forecasts deliveries of 680 to 720 new business jets this year compared with 683 planes last year, excluding Boeing and Airbus private jets. Purchase expectations for new jets weakened in Asia, which makes up about 4 per cent of the world fleet, Wilson said.

In Latin America, which has about 10 per cent of the world fleet, they rose. NetJets, the private jet unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, ordered as many as 120 of Bombardier’s longest-range Global aircraft last year in a deal valued at $6.7 billion. The Columbus, Ohio-based provider of private jet services also placed a $9.6 billion order in June for as many as 425 new mid-sized aircraft from Cessna and Bombardier on expectations that market will eventually rebound, Pat Gallagher, chief of sales at NetJets, said in an interview.

For now, flying farther and faster is what’s in demand, he said. “We’re doing a lot more flights to Russia and Brazil and China and other faraway places than we used to,” Gallagher said.

“As companies start to do business more globally, they need aircraft that can get them there.”


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