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Nordic Aviation Capital: the world's largest regional aircraft lessor

Established in 1990, Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC) is the world's leading lessor and owner of ATRs, Bombardier Dash 8s and turboprops generally. It is also the world's largest independent manager of leased regional jets. Overall, it is the biggest regional aircraft lessor on the planet.

With its headquarters in Billund, Denmark, and regional offices in Limerick, Fort Lauderdale, Singapore and Hong Kong, NAC has 72 airline customers in 48 countries. Its biggest operator is Garuda Indonesia, its customers including some of the world's largest regional airlines and the regional subsidiaries of major airlines.

NAC's most recent annual report (covering the year to Jun-2018) boasts of 22 consecutive years of earnings growth and a 19% return on equity, illustrating the financial success of its focus on regional aircraft leasing.

Summary

  • NAC is the owner or manager of 466 aircraft, making it a global top five lessor.
  • NAC is the world's largest lessor and owner of ATRs, Bombardier Dash 8s and turboprops generally.
  • NAC is the world's largest independent manager of leased regional jets.
  • Garuda is the biggest of NAC's 72 airline operators, but Europe is its biggest operator region (accounting for almost half its fleet).

NAC is owner or manager of 466 aircraft

According to the CAPA Fleet Database, NAC owns or manages of a total fleet of 466 aircraft. The fleet consists of 276 turboprops and 190 regional jets.

Its most popular manufacturer is ATR (186 managed aircraft), followed by Embraer (160 aircraft) and Bombardier (113 aircraft). It has only seven Airbus aircraft (A220 regional jets).

Note that, throughout this report, data for existing fleets are based on aircraft in service or inactive, and exclude aircraft yet to be delivered.

Nordic Aviation Capital: fleet owned/managed at 28-Sep-2018

Model

Number of aircraft

ATR 72

154

Embraer ERJ190

113

Bombardier DHC-8

90

ATR 42

32

Embraer ERJ195

21

Embraer ERJ175

18

Bombardier CRJ1000

12

Bombardier CRJ900

11

Embraer ERJ170

8

Airbus A220

7

Total

466

NAC is the world's largest turboprop lessor and owner

NAC is by far the world's largest owner and lessor of turboprops. Its fleet of 276 turboprops compares with number two lessor Avmax Group Inc, which manages 87 turboprops.

(Note that this excludes airlines that lease aircraft to subsidiaries or affiliates: Lion Air, which manages 71 leased turboprops, and Air New Zealand, which manages 51 leased turboprops.)

NAC owns/manages 15% of all the world's leased turboprops, according to figures from the CAPA Fleet Database at 28-Sep-2018.

Moreover, NAC's turboprop fleet far exceeds that of the second largest turboprop owner in the world, Jazz (a regional capacity supplier to Air Canada), which owns 92 (all Dash 8s).

Global top 10 turboprop aircraft lessors* (ranked): at 28-Sep-2018

 

Lessor

Number of turboprops managed

1

Nordic Aviation Capital

276

2

Avmax Group Inc

87

3

Elix Aviation Capital

76

4

FedEx

40

5

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise Capital

35

6

GECAS

31

7=

West-SIB Lease Ltd

19

7=

Avation

19

9

Westpac Banking Corporation

17

10

Bank of Utah

16

NAC is also the largest ATR and Dash 8 lessor and owner

In addition to being the largest owner and lessor of turboprops, NAC is also the world's largest owner and lessor of both ATR and Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft.

Its 186 ATRs are more than four times in number the 40 managed by FedEx, while its 90 Dash 8s are 8% more than the 83 managed by Avmax Group.

NAC owns/manages 25% of the world's leased ATRs and 17% of the world's leased Dash 8s.

NAC is the world's largest independent manager of leased regional jets

NAC is the world's largest manager of leased regional jets, if aircraft leased by airlines to other airlines in the same group are excluded from the ranking.

Its fleet of 190 managed regional jets puts it ahead of the mighty GECAS, one of the true giants of aircraft leasing, which manages 174 regional jets.

NAC owns/manages 7% of all the world's leased regional jets, according to figures from the CAPA Fleet Database at 28-Sep-2018.

Moreover, it is the world's fourth largest overall owner of regional jets (behind American Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and Delta Air Lines).

Global top 10 regional jet aircraft lessors* (ranked): at 28-Sep-2018

 

Lessor

Number of regional jets managed

1

Nordic Aviation Capital

190

2

GECAS

174

3

United Airlines

127

4

Refine Inc

115

5

Wells Fargo Bank Northwest

105

6

Delta Air Lines

94

7

Avmax Group Inc

68

8

Falko

59

9

US Bank Trust

45

10

American Airlines

36

The majority of NAC's regional jets are Embraers. Its fleet of 160 is the world's biggest Embraer fleet managed by an independent lessor (American Airlines manages 227 leased Embraers, but only 36 of these are operated by non-group airlines).

Garuda heads NAC's 72 airline operators

Not surprisingly, NAC's customers include some of the world's biggest regional airlines, including the regional subsidiaries of full service carriers.

It has a total of 72 airline operators at 28-Sep-2018, according to the CAPA Fleet Database. The leading NAC customer by number of aircraft is Garuda Indonesia, which leases 29 aircraft from NAC (17 ATR turboprops and 12 Bombardier regional jets).

Next is Aeromexico Connect, which leases 22 aircraft (all Embraer regional jets) from NAC, followed by Air Canada with 21 (all Embraer regional jets) and Azul also with 21 (14 ATRs and seven Dash 8s), then Flybe with 20 (18 Dash 8s and two Embraer E175s).

AirBaltic and LOT Polish are equal sixth among NAC's biggest operators, each with 19 aircraft leased from the lessor. AirBaltic has 12 Dash 8s and seven Airbus A220-300s (formerly the CS300, but renamed following Airbus' acquisition of the CSeries programme from Bombardier). LOT has eight Embraer regional jets and 11 Dash 8s.

NAC has a total of 13 airline customers with 10 or more aircraft leased from it, shown in the chart below. These leading operators account for 232 of NAC's managed fleet, or fractionally less than half of the total of 466.

In addition to the seven mentioned above, NAC's double digit operators are the Lufthansa subsidiary LGW, TAP Express, Hop, Air Europa Express, Alitalia Cityliner and Olympic Air.

NAC's airlines with only a single digit number of aircraft leased from it include such major operators as BA Cityflyer (British Airways' regional subsidiary), CityJet and Air Nostrum (merging to form Europe's biggest regional airline), Royal Air Maroc (North Africa's third largest airline by aircraft numbers), and Widerøe (Europe's second largest independent regional airline, after Flybe).

More than half of its airline customers, 37 of them, lease only three or fewer aircraft from NAC.

Nordic Aviation Capital: airlines with 10 or more aircraft from NAC*, at 28-Sep-2018

Europe is the leading region for NAC's operators

NAC's fleet is operated by airlines in all the main global regions.

Slightly more than two out of every five aircraft in NAC's fleet – 42% – are with operators in Europe (195 aircraft, of which 117 in Western Europe and 78 in Eastern/Central Europe). This compares with a global average for lessors of regional aircraft of 22%.

Europe is also NAC's biggest region for lease revenue, with a share of 43% in the financial year to Jun-2018, according to the company's annual report.

Of its fleet, 16% is in Asia Pacific (74 aircraft) and 15% is in Latin America (71 aircraft). It has 42 aircraft in North America (9%), 23 in Africa (5%) and four in the Middle East (1%).

In total, 57 of NAC's 431 aircraft have no operator, including 45 turboprops and 12 regional jets. This is 12% of its managed fleet, compared with a global average of 9% for leased commercial aircraft.

Nordic Aviation Capital: fleet* by operator region, at 28-Sep-2018

Although Europe is its pre-eminent region for airlines operating its fleet, NAC's biggest customer country is Indonesia, where it has 40 aircraft. In addition to Garuda, Indonesian operators include TransNusia Air Services, Kalstar Aviation, Pelita Air Service, Trigana Air and Jhonlin Air Transport.

Other major non-European countries for NAC are Canada (31 aircraft), Brazil (27 aircraft) and Mexico (22 aircraft). The most important European countries are the UK (28 aircraft), Latvia (19 aircraft), Poland (19 aircraft) and Germany and Spain (17 each).

NAC's aircraft orders are low compared with current fleet

NAC has 49 aircraft on order, according to the CAPA Fleet Database. These are all for aircraft types that are already in its fleet, including 34 ATRs (12 ATR 42s and 22 ATR 72s) and 15 Embraer E190/195s.

Delivery of the vast majority of the firm orders is expected by 2020, with one ATR 72 due in 2021. NAC also has 149 options for further ATR aircraft, according to the CAPA Fleet Database.

NAC has 22 firm orders for unknown or undisclosed operators, while 16 are for the Florida-based regional airline Silver Airways (12 ATR 42s and four ATR 72s), seven are for Garuda (ATR 72s) and four for LOT Polish (Embraer E190s).

As a proportion of its owned fleet, NAC's orders are only 11% – much lower than the 29% ratio for all the world's lessors.

This is partly because NAC has mostly completed a fairly significant order cycle in recent years (including 29 aircraft handed over since its financial year end at the end of Jun-2018).

However, its relatively low order numbers may also reflect its focus on regional aircraft types (turboprops and regional jets), for which orders as a percentage of aircraft in service are generally low. Indeed regional aircraft orders by lessors are 14% of the current leased fleet of regional aircraft, so NAC is slightly ahead of its peers in this respect. The future for these regional types looks brighter in Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

See related report: Turboprops & regional jets: lowering aircraft orders could suggest a fading regional airline model

NAC has a clear niche as the leading lessor of turboprops and regional jets, but this analysis suggests that it could perhaps consider a bolder approach to orders, particularly in Asia Pacific and Middle East, thereby reducing its reliance on Europe.

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