Saturday, March 01, 2014

Gulfstream confident on Middle East business jet market

Gulfstream, the American business jet maker, remains bullish on the UAE and Saudi Arabian markets as demand from Egypt slows down.

“The Middle East has always been a good market for Gulfstream. We have very good brand recognition in the Middle East in particular,” said Trevor Esling, the regional senior vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“We have a fleet of about 100 aircraft in the area. Saudi and the UAE are our two biggest markets. This is because of the concentration of people, industry, and commodities – oil, in this particular case.”

However, Egypt, which was once an important market for Gulfstream, has taken a big hit because of its economic struggles.

“Egypt was also a strong market. A big driver of our products is confidence in the market,” he said.

“Obviously, now it is much more difficult to make a decision from a business perspective and invest in products like ours if you have an uncertainty of how the economy will look.”

With a presence in the Middle East that goes back 30 to 40 years ago, Gulfstream targets wealthy individuals, companies, heads of state and militaries.

The company, which is publicly listed in the United States, reported US$8.1 billion in revenues last year, up 17.4 per cent from 2012.

“The Middle East was a good market for us last year, and the same is continuing for us in 2014,” said Mr Esling.

Gulfstream’s biggest markets are China and Russia, but the Middle Eastwas a “significant” one, according to Mr Esling.

Mr Esling added that part of the region’s significance is that it did not suffer “as much” during the global financial crisis of 2008.

“It’s still a commodity-driven economy, although this is changing here in Abu Dhabi and other places, where there is investment other than the oil industry. This helped significantly after 2008,” he said.

Gulfstream’s flagship, the G650 aircraft, is a best-seller in the region. The twin-engined business jet became available in 2008.

“It can fly from the Middle East to New York, which you can’t do in an executive-configured Airbus A319. That’s really the main difference. You trade cabin size for range and speed,” said Mr Esling.

Mr Esling describes the business jet product as “a necessity for some businesses” rather than a luxury.

“We don’t call our product a luxury, but it is used by businesses to save time and save money,” Mr Esling said. “For the most part it is a business tool.”


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