Market analysis: A brief history of helicopter leasing

Since 2010 we have seen the launch of many new specialist helicopter leasing companies – including Milestone Aviation Group (pictured), Waypoint Leasing, Lobo Leasing, Lease Corporation International, Macquarie Rotorcraft leasing and others.

Operating leases have been a popular source of finance for helicopter operators for many years. However, they were typically offered by banks and large equipment finance companies – or by operators like Era Group themselves. Since 2010 when Milestone Aviation Group launched we have seen a new wave of dedicated helicopter leasing companies.

This timeline gives the story so far.

2019

June 2019: Milestone adds its 79th Sikorsky 2-92 aircraft. This means the leasing company now owns more than 30% of S-92s. 

March 2019: Macquarie completes the acquisition of Waypoint Leasing. Banks chose to keep some of the assets. Lease Corporation International is manager for a number of helicopters that do not go to Macquarie.

Milestone Aviation:
Current portfolio value: $5 billion
Number of helicopters: 300+
Orders and options: valued at $3 billion
Customers: more than 40 customers in over 30 countries.
Shareholder: GE Capital Aviation Services
Loan Portfolio: $300 million

Macquarie Rotorcraft:
Current portfolio value: est. $1.5 billion
Number of helicopters: approx. 160
Shareholder: Macquarie Bank

Lease Corporation International
Portfolio: $1bn
Number of helicopters owned, managed and on order: 100
Orders and options: c.$150m
Customers: 30+

Nova Capital:
Current portfolio value: $350 million
Number of helicopters: 86 (including 3 under delivery)
Shareholder: founder & CEO
Equity Sponsor: Rive Private Investment

Lobo Leasing:
Current portfolio value: $300 million
Number of helicopters: 32
Shareholder: GSO Capital Partners

2018

December 2018: Macquarie agrees to buy Waypoint Leasing.

November 2018: Waypoint Leasing files for Chapter 11. The lessor was hit hard by the oil and gas downturn. CHC was its biggest customer. 

2018 Operating Leasing League Table

Milestone Aviation:
Current portfolio value: $4.7 billion
Number of helicopters: 300+
Orders and options: valued at $3 billion
Customers: more than 37 customers in over 30 countries.
Shareholder: GE Capital Aviation Services

Macquarie Rotorcraft (after acquiring Waypoint Leasing):

Current portfolio value: est. $1.8 billion
Number of helicopters: approx. 200
Shareholder: Macquarie Bank

LCI Helicopters:
Portfolio: $750m (Ascend Full Life Base Value)
Number of helicopters owned, managed and on order: 61
Orders and options: Between $105m – $125m
Customers: 18

Lobo Leasing:
Current portfolio value: $300 million
Number of helicopters: 32
Shareholder: GSO Capital Partners

Nova Capital:
Current portfolio value: $275 million
Number of helicopters: 80
Shareholder: founder & CEO<
Equity Sponsor: Rive Private Investment

Source: www.helicopterinvestor.com

2017

2017 Operating Leasing League Table

Milestone Aviation:
Current portfolio value: +$4 billion
Number of helicopters: 306
Orders and options: valued at $3 billion
Customers: more than 35 customers in over 30 countries.
Shareholder: GE Capital Aviation Services

Waypoint Leasing:
Current portfolio value: $1.6 billion
Number of helicopters: 150+
Orders and options: more than 90 helicopters valued at $1 billion
Shareholders: MSD Capital, Soros Fund Management, Cartesian Capital Group

LCI Helicopters:
Current portfolio value: c.$516m
Number of helicopters : 40
Orders and options: between $225 million and $245 million
Customers: 15
Shareholder: Lease Corporation International

Lobo Leasing:
Current portfolio value: c.$300 million
Number of helicopters: 32
Shareholder: GSO Capital Partners

Macquarie Rotorcraft:
Last recorded portfolio figures: $260 million
Orders and options at end of 2014: $270 million
Shareholder: Macquarie

Nova Capital
Current portfolio value: c.$ 235 m
Number of helicopters : 75
Orders and options: value c.$ 40 m
Shareholder: Founder
Equity Sponsor: Rive Private Investment

Source: www.helicopterinvestor.com

2016

October 2016: CHC selects Milestone (GE) as lead lessor. Milestone restructured leases and lent CHC $150 million backed by helicopters as part of its restructuring.

May 2016: CHC – the world’s largest helicopter operator and the biggest single user of operating leases – files for bankruptcy.

2015

February 2015: GE Capital Aviation Services closes its acquisition of Milestone Aviation Group.

2014

October 2014: GE Capital Aviation Services announces that it is buying Milestone Aviation Group. Milestone had also been planning an IPO. The first investors in Milestone more than doubled their money.

March 2014: GE Capital Aviation Services, the world’s largest commercial aircraft leasing company, says it wants to invest up to $2 billion in helicopters.

February 2014: Boutique financier Amur Capital launches Amur Helicopter Services. It acquires 28 Bell 206-L4 helicopters from Bristow.

February 2014: Lobo Leasing receives 200 million from GSO Capital, part of Blackstone.

January 2014: Perella Weinberg Partners Asset Based Value Strategy and Hawke Aerospace Holdings launch Infinity Helicopter Leasing which will focus on smaller helicopters in the US – particularly EMS and Police helicopters.

January 2014: KKR invests $100 million in Lease Corporation International Helicopters

2014 Operating Leasing League Table

1. Milestone
Portfolio at end of 2014: $2.8 billion
Number of helicopters at end of 2014: 168
Orders and options: $3 billion (131 helicopters)
Shareholder: GE Capital Aviation Services

2. Waypoint Leasing
Portfolio at end of 2014: $1 billion
Number of helicopters: 100
Orders and options at end of 2014: $1 billion
Shareholders: MSD Capital, Soros Fund Management, Cartesian Capital Group.

3. (Joint) Lease Corporation International
Portfolio at end of 2014: $ 260 million
Number of helicopters: 15
Orders and options at end of 2014: $1.3 billion
Customers: 8
Shareholders: Libra Group, KKR

3. (Joint) Macquarie Rotorcraft
Portfolio at end of 2014: $260 million
Orders and options at end of 2014: $270 million
Shareholder: Macquarie

5. Lobo Leasing
Portfolio at end of 2014: $200 million
Shareholder: GSO Capital Partners

6. Amur Helicopter Services
Portfolio at end of 2014: $100 million
Number of helicopters at end of 2014: 41
Shareholders: Amur Capital

7. Vector Aerospace
Portfolio at end of 2014: $80 million
Number of helicopters at end of 2014: 12
Shareholders: Airbus Helicopters

8. Infinity Leasing
Portfolio at end of 2014: $33 million
Number of helicopters at end of 2014: 6
Shareholders: Perella Weinberg Partners Asset Based Value Strategy and Hawke Aerospace Holdings

Source: www.HelicopterInvestor.com 

2013

June 2013: Macquarie, the Australian bank with a long history in transport finance, launches Macquarie Rotorcraft. The lessor is led by Jeff Pino, the former CEO of Sikorsky Helicopters and James Clarke a commercial aircraft leasing veteran.

MUST READ: The new age of helicopter leasing: 2013 review

June 2013: Waypoint Leasing is launched. Waypoint is led by Ed Washecka, the former CEO of Era Helicopters, and is backed by $375 million of equity from MSD Capital, L.P., Soros Fund Management LLC, and Cartesian Capital Group.

February 2013: Waypoint Leasing places a firm order with AgustaWestland for helicopters.

January 2013: Amur Capital closes its first helicopter operating lease.

2012

February 2012: Commercial aircraft lessor Lease Corporation International announces it is moving into helicopter leasing and places a $400 million fleet order with AgustaWestland.

2011

June 2011: Lobo Leasing is formed. Perella Weinberg Partners agrees to fund it but this venture eventually ends with both partners choosing other groups to work with.

2010

August 2010: Milestone Aviation Group launches with The Jordan Company (lead investor) and Nautic Partners investing $500 million between them. Milestone is led by Richard Santulli, the founder of NetJets, Bill Kelly, head of NetJets Europe and other senior managers from NetJets.

The early days 

2005: Ed Washecka, CEO of Era Group, transforms the company (then part of shipping company SEACOR) from a pure operator into a hybrid operator/lessor.

1990: GPA Aviation (then the largest commercial lessor) set up a joint-venture with CHC Helicopters.  This ends when GPA fails to float in 1992. GE Capital buys part of the business with the rest going to what is now Aercap. 

1989: Tomoo Nakayama launches ITC Leasing a helicopter and aircraft leasing company that uses Japanese investors to finance aircraft. ITC is still active.

1986: Santulli’s focus switches to selling fractional shares in a company called NetJets, partly because of changes to tax laws. He keeps RTS but stops originating new deals.

1984: Santulli acquires a company called Executive Jet which operates corporate jets and also owns a Bell Helicopter Service Centre. RTS grows to 200 helicopters.

1980: Richard Santulli leaves Goldman Sachs and launches RTS a leasing company. Goldman give him their helicopter portfolio as they consider the market and assets to be too small.

 

Alasdair Whyte

Alasdair launched Corporate Jet Investor and Helicopter Investor in 2010. He has more than 15 year's experience as a financial journalist and has specialised in aviation for much of this time. As well as editing the website, Alasdair helps to organise our international conferences and events. He also regularly chairs them as well as other industry gatherings.

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