Ex-Im supports Helistar, GE sells capital, Waypoint hires in Asia


AgustaWestland AW139 on the exhibition stand at Helitech 2013.

Ex-Im supports Helistar

All publicity is good publicity. This is surely one of the most ridiculous sayings and often untrue. As was the case for employees of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) who were very happy to be one of the lesser known parts of the US government.

For the last two years, the bank – which was founded in 1934 – has been a target of high-profile Tea Party Republicans who accuse it of “crony capitalism”. It is an odd target. US Ex-Im is a key supporter of US manufacturing – which means jobs – and helps lower the trade deficit.

Ex-Im is also an important supporter of helicopter makers. This week, Ex-Im agreed to guarantee AW139 helicopters worth $22.4 million for Panama’s North Pole Investments, which will lease them to Columbia’s Helistar, a charter operator. Apple Bank provided the loan. Airfinance was the arranger.

Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of Ex-Im Bank, who – serendipitously made the announcement while participating as a member of the US government delegation to the Summit of the Americas conference in Panama City – says the loan will support around 200 jobs at AgustaWestland’s facility in Philadelphia.

Ex-Im is also partnering on the deal with Italy’s export-credit agency, Servizi Assicurativi del Commercio Estero. This is only Ex-Im Bank’s fourth financing of exports of AgustaWestland helicopters to Latin America. Hopefully, Ex-Im will get re-authorised in June – it would be crazy not too – and will go on to support others.

GE selling capital – but not commercial aircraft and helicopter leasing

Jeff Imelt has been widely praised by analysts for being brave enough to sell off much of GE Capital but it is not a massive surprise. You just had to follow their helicopter finance strategy.

Although the sale of real estate assets worth $26.5 billion to Blackstone and Wells Fargo has deservedly attracted a lot of attention, you could guess at this strategy in December 2013 when GE Capital Corporate Aircraft Finance sold its helicopter finance portfolio to Element Capital for $250 million. Since then it has been extremely selective sourcing new corporate jet and helicopter transactions, only focusing on core GE customers.

Just as significantly Dave Labrozzi, the highly regarded head of the corporate aircraft finance group retired last year.

But GE had not gone off helicopters, PK Airfinance. GE Capital Aviation Service’s specialist aircraft finance boutique financed a helicopter for Lease Corporation International. In October 2014, GE Capital Aviation Services acquired Milestone Aviation, the first new-style helicopter leasing company for $1.78 billion. The acquisition made a lot of sense for GE. As an important supplier to both commercial aircraft and helicopters manufacturers GE clearly understands and wants to support these markets.

Milestone, the first helicopter lessor, also fitted in well with GPA, one of the first commercial helicopter leasing companies (we are never sure whether GPA or ILFC gets this crown). Both were founded by exceptional entrepreneurs: Tony Ryan launched two trailblazing companies – GPA and Ryanair; Richard Santulli launched two industries – fractional aircraft ownership and helicopter leasing.

Waypoint opens Singapore office

Waypoint Leasing is continuing to grow, hiring Philip Stransky, director of sales and business development in Asia. He will also open Waypoint’s Singapore office.

Stransky joins from SEACOR Marine. SEACOR was of course the parent of Era Helicopters when Waypoint founder Ed Washecka was CEO (it was spun out in 2013).

“I have worked with Philip for many years – he has deep knowledge of the region and strong relationships with dozens of helicopter operations. I am confident that under his supervision, we will replicate Waypoint’s success across the globe and deliver superior value to operators through differentiated and flexible financing solutions,” added Washecka.

Waypoint has delivered nine helicopters Bond Helicopters Australia, Hevilift and National Utility Helicopters in the region.

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