Aircastle 10-K 2007
Documents found in this filing:
For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2006
For the transition period from to
Commission file number 001-32959
(Exact name of Registrant as Specified in its Charter)
c/o Aircastle Advisor LLC
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (203) 504-1020
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes No
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports) and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes No
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, or a non-accelerated filer. See definition of ‘‘accelerated filer and large accelerated filer’’ in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act) Yes No
The aggregate market value of the voting common shares held by non-affiliates of the registrant on June 30, 2006 is not applicable as the registrant was not publicly traded as of June 30, 2006. The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates computed by reference to the price of $35.16 per share at which the common equity was last sold as of March 15, 2007 was $869.0 million.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SAFE HARBOR STATEMENT UNDER THE
Certain items in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, and other information we provide from time to time may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 including, but not necessarily limited to, statements relating to our ability to acquire, sell and lease aircraft, issue aircraft lease-backed securities on attractive terms, anticipate, manage and address industry trends and their effect on our business, pay and grow dividends, realize gains or income from our debt investments, obtain required licenses and governmental approvals, obtain favorable tax treatment, secure financing and increase revenues, earnings, and EBITDA. Words such as ‘‘anticipate(s),’’ ‘‘expect(s)’’, ‘‘intend(s)’’, ‘‘plan(s)’’, ‘‘target(s)’’, ‘‘project(s)’’, ‘‘believe(s)’’, ‘‘will’’, ‘‘would’’, ‘‘seek(s)’’, ‘‘estimate(s)’’ and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These statements are based on management’s current expectations and beliefs and are subject to a number of factors that could lead to actual results materially different from those described in the forward-looking statements; Aircastle Limited can give no assurance that its expectations will be attained. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from Aircastle Limited’s expectations include, but are not limited to, our significant customer concentration; our continued ability to obtain additional capital to finance our growth; our continued ability to acquire aircraft at attractive prices; our continued ability to obtain favorable tax treatment in Bermuda and other jurisdictions; our ability to pay or maintain dividends; our ability to lease aircraft at favorable rates and maintain the value of our aircraft; the possibility that conditions to closing of certain transactions will not be satisfied; our ability to realize gains or income from our debt investments; general economic conditions and economic conditions in the markets in which we operate; competitive pressures within the industry and/or markets in which we operate; the creditworthiness of our airline customers; interest rate fluctuations; our ability to obtain certain required licenses and approvals; the impact of future terrorist attacks or wars on the airline industry; our concentration of leases in certain geographical regions; and other risks detailed from time to time in Aircastle’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (‘SEC’’), including ‘‘Risk Factors’’ included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Such forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this Annual Report. Aircastle Limited expressly disclaims any obligation to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in our expectations with regard thereto or change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any statement is based.
ITEM 1 — BUSINESS
Unless the context suggests otherwise, references in this report to ‘‘Aircastle,’’ the ‘‘Company,’’ ‘‘we,’’ ‘‘us,’’ and ‘‘our’’ refer to Aircastle Limited and its subsidiaries. References in this report to ‘‘AL’’ refer only to Aircastle Limited. References in this prospectus to ‘‘Aircastle Bermuda’’ refer to Aircastle Holding Corporation Limited and its subsidiaries. References in this report to ‘‘Fortress’’ refer to Fortress Investment Group LLC, affiliates of which manage the Fortress funds, and certain of its affiliates and references to the ‘‘Fortress funds’’ refer to AL shareholders which are managed by affiliates of Fortress. Throughout this report, when we refer to our aircraft, we include aircraft that we have transferred into grantor trusts or similar entities for purposes of financing such assets through securitization. These grantor trusts or similar entities are consolidated for purposes of our financial statements. All amounts in this report are expressed in U.S. dollars and the financial statements have been prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (‘‘GAAP’’).
We are a global company that acquires and leases high-utility commercial jet aircraft to passenger and cargo airlines throughout the world. High-utility aircraft are generally modern, operationally efficient jets with a large operator base and long useful lives. As of December 31, 2006, our aircraft portfolio consisted of 69 aircraft that were leased to 32 lessees located in 23 countries and managed through our offices in the United States, Ireland and Singapore. All of our aircraft are subject to net operating leases whereby the lessee is generally responsible for maintaining the aircraft and paying operational and insurance costs although, in a majority of cases, we are obligated to pay a portion of specified maintenance or modification costs. We also make investments in other aviation assets, including debt securities secured by commercial jet aircraft. As of March 15, 2007, we had acquired and committed to acquire aviation assets having an aggregate purchase price equal to $2.23 billion and $1.44 billion, respectively, for a total of approximately $3.67 billion. Our revenues and income from continuing operations for the year ended December 31, 2006 were $189.3 million and $47.8 million, respectively and for the fourth quarter 2006 were $61.2 million and $19.8 million, respectively.
We expect to benefit from the size and growth of the commercial aircraft market and to increase our revenues and earnings by acquiring additional aviation assets. The current worldwide commercial aircraft fleet consists of more than 17,000 aircraft with an aggregate estimated value in excess of $360 billion and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.5% to a value of $620 billion through 2016. The market is highly fragmented, with over 1,800 owners, including airlines, other aircraft lessors and financial institutions. Operating lessors, including us, own approximately 30.9% of the global fleet. The continued growth in air traffic, driven in large part by emerging markets with strong economic growth and rising levels of per capita air travel, has increased the demand, and lease rates, for certain high-utility aircraft types. We believe that we are well positioned to take advantage of these favorable industry trends with our international platform, experienced management team and flexible capital structure.
On January 22, 2007, we entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement, which we refer to as the Acquisition Agreement, with affiliates of Guggenheim Aviation Investment Fund LP, or GAIF, pursuant to which we agreed to acquire 38 aircraft for an aggregate base purchase price of approximately $1.595 billion, subject to certain agreed adjustments. The aircraft we will acquire under the Acquisition Agreement are scheduled to be delivered to us through February 2009, with 28 of these aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2007. As of March 15, 2007, we acquired five of these aircraft. Four of the aircraft are Boeing Model 747-400ERF freighter aircraft to be delivered new from the manufacturer, seven are Boeing Model 747-400 aircraft converted or to be converted from passenger to freighter specification and one is a McDonnell Douglas Model MD11SF. The remaining 26 aircraft are passenger aircraft. We refer to this acquisition throughout this report as the ‘‘Aircraft Acquisition’’.
We intend to pay regular quarterly dividends to our shareholders. We plan to grow our dividends per share through the acquisition of additional aviation assets using cash on hand and available credit facilities. We expect to finance our acquisitions on a long-term basis using low-cost, non-recourse securitizations. Securitizations allow companies to raise long-term capital by pledging cash flows of an asset pool, such as aircraft leases. In June 2006, we closed our first securitization, which we refer to as Securitization No. 1, a $560 million transaction comprising 40 aircraft and related leases, which we refer to as Portfolio No. 1.
The table below is a summary of our dividend history. These dividends may not be indicative of the amount of any future dividends.
We believe that the following competitive strengths will allow us to capitalize on the growth opportunities in the global aviation industry:
We plan to grow our business and increase our dividends per share by employing the following business strategies:
We source our acquisitions through well-established relationships with airlines, other aircraft lessors, financial institutions and brokers, as well as other sources. We have acquired one aircraft from Drawbridge Special Opportunities Fund LP, a fund managed by an affiliate of Fortress, but have not acquired or committed to acquire any other aircraft from our affiliates.
We are currently focused on acquiring high-utility aircraft in the secondary market and through sale-leasebacks. While we do not focus on aircraft of a particular age, we acquired most of our aircraft assets five to fifteen years from original manufacture. We believe that sourcing acquisitions both globally and through multiple channels provides for a broad and relatively consistent set of investment opportunities.
On January 22, 2007, we entered into the Acquisition Agreement with affiliates of GAIF, pursuant to which we agreed to acquire 38 aircraft for an aggregate base purchase price of approximately $1.595 billion, subject to certain agreed adjustments. The aircraft we will acquire under the Acquisition Agreement are scheduled to be delivered to us through February 2009, with 28 of these aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2007. As of March 15, 2007 we acquired five of these aircraft. Four of the aircraft are Boeing Model 747-400ERF freighter aircraft to be delivered new from the manufacturer, seven are Boeing Model 747-400 aircraft converted or to be converted from passenger to freighter specification and one is a McDonnell Douglas Model MD11SF. The remaining 26 aircraft are passenger aircraft.
We have an experienced acquisitions team based in Stamford, Connecticut, Dublin, Ireland and Singapore that maintains strong relationships with a wide variety of market participants throughout the world. We believe that our seasoned personnel and extensive industry contacts facilitate our access to acquisition opportunities.
Potential investments are evaluated by teams consisting of marketing, engineering/technical, credit, financial analytic and legal professionals. These teams consider a variety of aspects before we commit to purchase an aircraft, including its price, specification/configuration, age, condition and maintenance history, operating efficiency, lease terms, financial condition and liquidity of the lessee, jurisdiction, industry trends and future redeployment potential and values, among other factors. We believe that utilizing a cross-functional team of experts to consider the investment parameters noted above will help assess more completely the overall risk and return profile of potential acquisitions and will help us move forward expeditiously on letters of intent and acquisition documentation. Our letters of intent are typically non-binding prior to board of directors approval, and upon board of directors approval are binding and subject to the fulfillment of customary closing conditions.
Our aim is to develop and maintain a diverse and stable portfolio and, in that regard, our investment strategy is oriented towards longer term holding horizons rather than shorter-term trading.
A key aspect of our growth strategy is our flexible capital structure which supports the financing of our acquisitions of aircraft and other aviation assets. We typically finance the initial purchase of aircraft and other aviation assets using committed short-term credit arrangements and cash on hand. We believe our ability to execute acquisitions expeditiously and without financing contingencies have benefited us in competitive bidding situations. Our short-term borrowed funds for our aircraft acquisitions and repurchase obligations for our securities are provided by secured credit facilities from banks. See ‘‘Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Credit Facilities.’’
We intend to access the securitization market to provide long-term financing for our aircraft operating lease portfolio. On June 15, 2006 we closed Securitization No. 1. Securitization No. 1 generated gross proceeds of $560 million through the issuance of floating-rate aircraft lease-backed securities, secured, among other things, by ownership interests in our subsidiaries that own the 40 aircraft included in Portfolio No. 1 and the related leases. The face value of the notes represents 54.8% of the Initial Appraised Value of Portfolio No. 1 of $1.022 billion. We retained 100% of the rights to receive future cash flows from Portfolio No. 1 after the payment of claims that are senior to our rights.
Based on our expected aircraft acquisition plan, we anticipate completing one or two securitizations per year and one or two additional equity offerings per year. Our ability to successfully complete these securitizations and equity offerings on favorable terms will have a significant impact on our results of operations and financial condition.
As of December 31, 2006, all of the aircraft in our portfolio were subject to operating leases. Under an operating lease, we retain the benefit, and bear the risk, of re-leasing and the residual value of the aircraft upon expiry or early termination of the lease. Operating leasing is an attractive alternative to ownership for airlines because leasing (i) increases fleet flexibility, (ii) requires a lower capital commitment, and (iii) significantly reduces aircraft residual value risk. Under our leases, the lessees agree to lease the aircraft for a fixed term, although certain of our operating leases allow the lessee the option to extend the lease for an additional term. Lease rental revenue from our two largest customers, U.S. Airways, Inc. and Hainan Airlines, accounted for 22% and 8%, respectively, of our total revenues for the year ended December 31, 2006. As of December 31, 2006, the weighted average (by net book value) remaining term of our leases for aircraft we owned at December 31, 2006 was 4.2 years with scheduled expirations ranging from 2007 through 2014 and the maturities of these leases by aircraft type grouping were as follows:
Lease Payments and Security. Each of our leases requires the lessee to pay periodic rentals during the lease term. Rentals on three of our leases are payable on a floating interest-rate basis and rentals on our remaining leases are fixed for the base lease term. All lease rentals are payable either monthly or quarterly in advance. All of the leases are payable in U.S. dollars.
Under our leases, the lessee must pay operating expenses accrued or payable during the term of the lease, which would normally include maintenance, operating, overhaul, airport and navigation charges, certain taxes, licenses, consents and approvals, aircraft registration and aircraft hull and public liability insurance premiums. Under all of our leases, the lessee is required to make payments for heavy maintenance, overhaul or replacement of certain high-value components of the aircraft. These maintenance payments are based on hours or cycles of utilization or on calendar time, depending upon the component, and are required to be made monthly in arrears or at the end of the lease term. Whether to permit a lessee to make maintenance payments at the end of the lease term, rather than requiring such payments to be made monthly, will depend on a variety of factors, including the creditworthiness of the lessee, the level of security deposit which may be provided by the lessee and market conditions at the time. If a lessee is making monthly maintenance payments, we would typically be obligated to use the funds paid by the lessee during the lease term to reimburse the lessee for costs they incur for heavy maintenance, overhaul or replacement of certain high-value components, usually shortly following completion of the relevant work. In addition, a majority of our leases contain provisions which may require us to pay a portion of such costs in excess of the amounts paid to us by the lessee on a monthly basis, although the timing of the maintenance, overhaul or replacement of the relevant components and the actual cost of the work will determine the portion of the excess, if any, we must pay. As part of our due diligence review of each aircraft we purchase, we prepare an estimate of the expected maintenance payments and any excess costs which may become payable by us, taking into consideration the then-current maintenance status of the aircraft and the relevant provisions of any existing lease. As of December 31, 2006, we expected to pay approximately $11.4 million over the next twelve months for amounts in excess of maintenance costs not covered by lessee maintenance payments on aircraft owned at December 31, 2006. If our estimates prove to be incorrect, or if the lessee is unable to make maintenance payments that come due, our costs associated with maintenance of the aircraft might increase, thereby adversely affecting our net income and cash flow.
A majority of our leases also contain provisions requiring us to pay a portion of the cost of modifications to the aircraft performed by the lessee at its expense, if such modifications are mandated by recognized airworthiness authorities. Typically these provisions would set a threshold, below which the lessee would not have a right to seek reimbursement and above which we may be required to pay a portion of the cost incurred by the lessee. The lessees are obliged to remove liens on the aircraft other than liens permitted under the leases.
Our leases generally provide that the lessees’ payment obligations are absolute and unconditional under any and all circumstances and require lessees to make payments without withholding payment on account of any amounts the lessor may owe the lessee or any claims the lessee may have against the lessor for any reason, except that under certain of the leases a breach of quiet enjoyment by the lessor may permit a lessee to withhold payment. The leases also generally include an obligation of the lessee to gross up payments under the lease where lease payments are subject to withholdings and other taxes, although there may be some limitations to the gross up obligation, including provisions which do not require a lessee to gross up payments if the withholdings arise out of our ownership or tax structure. In addition, changes in law may result in the imposition of withholding and other taxes and charges that are not reimbursable by the lessee under the lease or that cannot be so reimbursed under applicable law and lessees may fail to reimburse even when obligated under the lease to do so. Our leases also generally require the lessee to indemnify the lessor for tax liabilities relating to the leases and the aircraft including, in most cases, value added tax and stamp duties, but excluding income tax or its equivalent imposed on the lessor. Our leases require the lessees to pay interest on any overdue amounts.
As of December 31, 2006, lessees under 58 of our leases had provided cash security deposits and/or letters of credit. As of December 31, 2006, we had cash security deposits of approximately $39.8 million.
Lessees’ Options. As of December 31, 2006, none of our leases provide the lessee the option to purchase the aircraft at the end of the lease term. As of December 31, 2006, 16 of our leases give the lessee the option to extend the term of the lease. The rent payable during the extension period may vary from the rent payable prior to the extension. None of these leases provide the lessee an option to terminate its lease prior to the scheduled expiration date.
Our objective is to build and maintain an operating lease portfolio which is balanced and diversified and delivers returns commensurate with risk. We have portfolio concentration objectives to assist in portfolio risk management and highlight areas where action to mitigate risk may be appropriate, and take into account the following:
We have a risk management team which undertakes detailed credit due diligence on lessees when aircraft are being acquired with a lease already in place and for placement of aircraft with new lessees following lease expiry or termination.
Lease Management and Remarketing
Our aircraft re-leasing strategy is to develop opportunities proactively, well in advance of lease expiries, to enable consideration of a broad set of alternatives, including both passenger and freighter deployments, and to allow for reconfiguration/maintenance lead times where needed. We have invested significant resources in developing and implementing what we consider to be a state-of-the-art lease management information system to enable efficient management of aircraft in our portfolio.
Potential re-leasing opportunities are sourced globally and screened with respect to multiple factors, including rental rates, lease term, redeployment costs, lessee credit and jurisdiction, and the level of security deposits, maintenance reserves and other protections.
Remarketing of aircraft for placement on new operating leases is undertaken by a highly experienced marketing team with a well established market profile and extensive contacts. We have representatives based in the United States, Europe and Asia who provide global coverage. Our marketing team has an ongoing dialogue with a wide cross section of airlines, the original equipment manufacturers and other significant industry participants to keep closely apprised of market developments affecting airline fleet requirements and emerging aircraft supply and demand opportunities.
Our current strategy is to focus on the acquisition, leasing and management of owned aircraft rather than seeking to enter third-party aircraft management business. We currently manage five aircraft on behalf of Fortress-related entities, but we are not actively pursuing other third-party aircraft management business.
Our Debt Investments
We also invest in debt securities secured by commercial jet aircraft including enhanced equipment trust certificates and other forms of collateralized debt. We believe our experience in the aircraft leasing business, coupled with our knowledge of structured finance, enables us to make opportunistic investments in this market.
We believe our debt investments complement our aircraft leasing business. Through our aircraft leasing business, we have extensive experience with the pertinent airline credits and valuation of underlying aviation collateral. By leveraging this knowledge and experience we believe we are able to earn attractive risk-adjusted returns.
As of December 31, 2006, our debt investment portfolio had a fair value of $121.3 million and consisted of six debt securities. A majority of the opportunities available in this segment presently entail U.S. airline obligors. Consistent with our overall investment approach, we consider return thresholds for investments in secured debt on a risk-adjusted basis.
Consistent with our strategy in our aircraft leasing business, we generally invest in secured debt with a long-term holding horizon. Among other factors, we periodically monitor the investment value, collateral coverage and credit standing of the relevant obligors. As part of our portfolio management approach, we will consider liquidating or reducing our exposure to specific securities to the extent collateral coverage, credit profile or other factors deteriorate.
We utilize a deal team approach to pursue secured debt transactions, wherein functional experts such as technical, credit and legal personnel support our analytics valuation and finance functions in order to make investments consistent with our portfolio management strategy. At the current time, funding for our secured debt investments is undertaken on a transaction-specific basis.
Other Aviation Assets
As of December 31, 2006, our overall portfolio of assets includes commercial jet aircraft and asset-backed debt securities, however, we believe that acquisition opportunities may arise in such sectors as jet engine and spare parts leasing and financing, aviation facility financing or ownership, and commercial turboprop aircraft and helicopter leasing and financing. In the future, we may make opportunistic investments in these sectors or in other aviation related assets.
The aircraft leasing industry is highly competitive. The aircraft leasing industry may be divided into two leasing segments: (i) leasing of new aircraft acquired directly or indirectly from manufacturers and (ii) leasing or re-leasing of aircraft in the secondary market. Currently, we compete primarily in the latter segment, and our competition is comprised of other aircraft leasing companies,
including GE Commercial Aviation Services, International Lease Finance Corp., CIT Group, AerCap, Aviation Capital Group, Pegasus, Macquarie Aircraft Leasing, RBS Aviation Capital, AWAS, Babcock & Brown and Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise. We believe that only a few comparably sized companies focus primarily on the same segment of the aircraft leasing market as we do. In addition to those companies listed above, a number of other aircraft manufacturers, airlines and other operators, distributors, equipment managers, leasing companies, financial institutions, and other parties engaged in leasing, managing, marketing or remarketing aircraft compete with us, although their focus may be on different market segments. Competition in aircraft leasing is based principally upon the availability, type and condition of aircraft, lease rates and other lease terms. Some of our competitors have, or may obtain greater financial resources than us and may have a lower cost of capital. However, we believe that we are able to compete favorably in aircraft acquisition and leasing activities due to the reputation and experience of our management, our expertise in acquiring aircraft and our flexibility in structuring lease rates and other lease terms to respond to market dynamics and customer needs. We also face competition in remarketing activities from the same type of competitors. Competition in the sale of aircraft is based principally on the availability, type and condition of aircraft and price.
We operate in a capital intensive rather than a labor intensive business. As of December 31, 2006, we had 45 full-time employees. Management and administrative personnel will expand, as necessary, to meet our future growth needs. None of our employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement and we believe that we maintain excellent employee relations. We provide certain employee benefits, including retirement, health, life, disability and accident insurance plans.
We require our lessees to carry with insurers in the international insurance markets the types of insurance which are customary in the air transportation industry, including airline general third party legal liability insurance, all-risk aircraft hull insurance (both with respect to the aircraft and with respect to each engine when not installed on our aircraft) and war-risk hull and legal liability insurance covering risks such as hijacking, terrorism, confiscation, expropriation, nationalization and seizure. We are named as an additional insured on liability insurance policies carried by our lessees, and we and/or our lender normally are designated as a loss payee in the event of a total loss of the aircraft. Coverage under liability policies generally is not subject to deductibles except those as to baggage and cargo that are standard in the airline industry, and coverage under all-risk aircraft hull insurance policies generally is subject to agreed deductible levels. We maintain contingent hull and liability insurance coverage with respect to our aircraft which is intended to provide coverage in the event the hull or liability insurance maintained by any of our lessees should lapse without notice to us.
We maintain insurance policies to cover risks related to physical damage to our equipment and property (other than aircraft), as well as with respect to third-party liabilities arising through the course of our normal business operations (other than aircraft operations). We also maintain limited business interruption insurance and directors’ and officers’ insurance providing indemnification for our directors, officers and certain employees for certain liabilities.
We believe that the insurance coverage currently carried by Aircastle and our lessees provides adequate protection against the accident-related and other covered risks involved in the conduct of our business. However, there can be no assurance that we have adequately insured against all risks that lessees will at all times comply with their obligations to maintain insurance, that any particular claim will be paid or that we will be able to procure adequate insurance coverage at commercially reasonable rates in the future. Consistent with industry practice, our insurance policies are subject to commercially reasonable deductibles or self-retention amounts.
The air transportation industry is highly regulated. Since we do not operate aircraft, we generally are not directly subject to most of these laws. However, our lessees are subject to extensive regulation under the laws of the jurisdiction in which they are registered or under which they operate. Such laws govern, among other things, the registration, operation and maintenance of our aircraft. Most of our aircraft are registered in the jurisdiction in which the lessee of the aircraft is certified as an air operator. As a result, our aircraft are subject to the air worthiness and other standards imposed by such jurisdictions. Laws affecting the airworthiness of aircraft generally are designed to ensure that all aircraft and related equipment are continuously maintained in proper condition to enable safe operation of the aircraft. Most countries’ aviation laws require aircraft to be maintained under an approved maintenance program having defined procedures and intervals for inspection, maintenance, and repair.
Our lessees are sometimes obliged to obtain governmental approval to import and lease our aircraft, to operate our aircraft on certain routes and to pay us in U.S. dollars. Usually these approvals are obtained prior to lease commencement as a condition to our delivery of the aircraft. Governmental leave to deregister and/or re-export an aircraft at lease expiry or termination may also be required and may not be available in advance of the lease expiration or termination, although we would normally in such a case require powers of attorney or other documentation to assist us in effecting deregistration or export if required.
Inflation generally affects our costs, including SG&A expenses and other expenses. However, we do not believe that our financial results have been, or will be, adversely affected by inflation in a material way.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
Risks Related to Our Business
Risks related to our operations
We have limited operating history and we are therefore subject to the risks generally associated with the formation of any new business.
We were incorporated in October 2004, prior to which we had no operations or assets. We are therefore subject to the risks generally associated with the formation of any new business, including the risk that we will not be able to implement our business strategies. Because of our limited operating history, it will be difficult for investors to assess the quality of our management team and our results of operations, and our financial performance to date may not be indicative of our long-term future performance. Furthermore, because annual historical financial statements are available for only 2005 and 2006, investors will find it more difficult to evaluate our performance and assess our future prospects than it would be were such information available for a longer period of time. In addition, over our brief history we have incurred a net loss of approximately $1.5 million for the period from October 29, 2004 through December 31, 2004, net income of approximately $228,000 for the year ended December 31, 2005, and net income of approximately $51.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2006. We may not be able to maintain and/or increase profitability in the future. In addition, although we have grown substantially since our inception, there can be no assurance that we will be able to continue to effectively integrate acquired aircraft, including significant acquisitions such as the Aircraft Acquisition.
We have significant customer concentration and defaults by one or more of our major customers could have a material adverse effect on our cash flow and earnings and our ability to meet our debt obligations and pay dividends on our common shares.
Lease rental revenue from our four largest customers, US Airways, Inc., Hainan Airlines, Sterling and China Eastern, accounted for 40% of our total revenue for the year ended December 31, 2006. The lease rental revenue as a percent of our total revenue, for these four customers for that period was approximately 22%, 8%, 5% and 5%, respectively. These customers operate under 25 operating lease agreements that have terms ranging from five months to eight years. In addition, US Airways, Inc. reorganized under Chapter 11 in August 2002 and exited bankruptcy in March 2003. US Airways, Inc. again reorganized in September 2004 and, in September 2005, exited bankruptcy and merged with America West Airlines. The loss of one or more of these customers or their inability to make operating lease payments due to financial difficulties, bankruptcy or otherwise could have a material adverse effect on our cash flow and earnings and our ability to meet our debt obligations and pay dividends on our common shares.
Under our current business model, we will need additional capital to finance our growth, and we may not be able to obtain it on terms acceptable to us, or at all, which may limit our ability to grow and compete in the aviation market.
Continued expansion of our business through the acquisition of additional aircraft and other aviation assets will require additional capital, particularly if we were to accelerate our acquisition plans. Financing may not be available to us or may be available to us only on terms that are not favorable. Furthermore, Amended Credit Facility No. 2 may be used to finance only 65% of the purchase price of the aircraft financed with proceeds from the facility. In addition, the terms of certain of our outstanding indebtedness restrict, among other things, our ability to incur additional debt. Amended Credit Facility No. 2 and the Revolving Credit Facility, subject to certain limited exceptions, each prohibit us from incurring additional recourse debt or guaranteeing the indebtedness of our subsidiaries. If we are unable to raise additional funds or obtain capital on terms acceptable to us, we may have to delay, modify or abandon some or all of our growth strategies. Further, if additional capital is raised through the issuance of additional equity securities, the interests of our then current common shareholders would be diluted. Newly issued equity securities may have rights, preferences or privileges senior to those of our common shares.
We may not be able to issue aircraft lease-backed securities on attractive terms, which may require us to seek more costly or dilutive financing for our investments or to liquidate assets.
We intend to continue to finance our aircraft portfolio on a long-term basis through the aircraft securitization market. We primarily use short-term credit facilities to finance the acquisition of aircraft until we accumulate a sufficient quantity, quality and diversity of aircraft, at which time we intend to refinance these facilities through a securitization, such as an issuance of aircraft lease-backed securities, or other long-term financing. As a result, we are subject to the risk that we will not be able to acquire, during the period that our credit facilities are available, a sufficient amount of eligible aircraft to maximize the efficiency of an issuance of aircraft lease-backed securities. We also may not be able to obtain additional credit facilities or may not be able to renew or refinance any of our existing credit facilities should we need more time to acquire the aircraft necessary for a long-term securitization financing. In addition, we anticipate refinancing our securitization transactions within five years of closing each such transaction. The inability to renew or refinance our credit facilities may require us to seek more costly or dilutive financing for our aircraft or to liquidate assets. In addition, conditions in the capital markets may make the issuance of aircraft lease-backed securities more costly or otherwise less attractive to us when we do have a sufficient pool of aircraft or during the period of time when we anticipate refinancing a securitization portfolio. We also may not be able to structure any future securitizations to allow for distributions of excess securitization cash flows to us. If we are unable to access the securitization market to finance these assets, we may be required to seek other forms of more costly, dilutive or otherwise less attractive financing or otherwise to liquidate the assets.
An increase in our borrowing costs may adversely affect our earnings and cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
We enter into repurchase agreements to finance a portion of the purchase price of our debt securities. Our repurchase agreements typically have terms to maturity with expiration dates in 2007 and 2008. We utilize credit facilities to finance a portion of the purchase price of our aircraft. Our credit facilities have initial terms to maturity with expiration dates ranging from December 15, 2007, in the case of the Revolving Credit Facility, to December 15, 2008, in the case of Amended Credit Facility No. 2. As our repurchase agreements and credit facilities mature, we will be required to either refinance these instruments by entering into new repurchase agreements or credit facilities, which could result in higher borrowing costs, or repay them by using cash on hand or cash from the sale of our assets.
Our repurchase agreements and credit facilities are primarily LIBOR-based floating-rate obligations and the interest expense we incur will vary with changes in the applicable LIBOR reference rate. As a result, to the extent we are not sufficiently hedged, changes in interest rates may increase our interest costs and may reduce the spread between the returns on our portfolio investments and the cost of our borrowings. An increase in interest rates would adversely affect the market value of our debt investments that are fixed-rate and/or subject them to prepayment or extension risk, which may adversely affect our earnings and cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
As of December 31, 2006, if interest rates were to increase by 1%, we would expect to incur an increase in interest expense on our repurchase agreements of approximately $88,000 on an annualized basis, net of amounts received from our interest rate hedges. Also, as of December 31, 2006, if interest rates were to increase by 1%, we would expect to incur a decrease in annual interest expense on our credit facilities of approximately $573,000 on an annualized basis, net of amounts received from our interest rate hedges.
Departure of key officers could harm our business and financial results.
Our senior management’s reputations and relationships with lessees and sellers of aircraft are a critical element of our business. We encounter intense competition for qualified employees from other companies in the aircraft leasing industry, and we believe there are only a limited number of available qualified executives in our industry. Our future success depends, to a significant extent, upon the
continued service of our senior management personnel, particularly: Ron Wainshal, our Chief Executive Officer; Mark Zeidman, our Chief Financial Officer; and David Walton, our Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, each of whose services are critical to the successful implementation of our growth strategies. These key officers have been with us as we have substantially grown our operations since the end of 2005 and as a result have been critical to our development. If we were to lose the services of any of these individuals, our business and financial results could be adversely affected.
We may not be able to pay or maintain dividends and the failure to do so would adversely affect our share price.
On March 14, 2007, our board of directors declared a regular quarterly dividend of $0.50 per common share, or an aggregate of approximately $33,634, payable on April 13, 2007 to holders of record on March 30, 2007. On January 15, 2007, we paid a regular quarterly dividend of $0.4375 per common share, or an aggregate of approximately $22.6 million, for the three months ended December 31, 2006, to shareholders of record as of December 29, 2006. These dividends may not be indicative of the amount of any future dividends. We intend to continue to pay regular quarterly dividends to our shareholders; however, our ability to pay, maintain or expand cash dividends to our shareholders and to execute our dividend payment strategy is subject to the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on many factors, including our ability to make and finance acquisitions, our ability to negotiate favorable lease and other contractual terms, the level of demand for our aircraft, the economic condition of the commercial aviation industry generally, the financial condition and liquidity of our lessees, the lease rates we are able to charge and realize, our leasing costs, unexpected or increased expenses, the level and timing of capital expenditures, principal repayments and other capital needs, the value of our aircraft portfolio, our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity, general business conditions, restrictions imposed by our securitizations or other financing arrangements (including our credit facilities), legal restrictions on the payment of dividends and other factors that our board of directors deems relevant. Some of the factors are beyond our control and a change in any such factor could affect our ability to pay dividends on our common shares. In the future we may not be able to pay or maintain dividends. We also may not be able to maintain our current level of dividends or increase them over time. Increases in demand for our aircraft and operating lease payments may not occur, and may not increase our actual cash available for dividends to our common shareholders. The failure to maintain or pay dividends would adversely affect our share price.
We are subject to risks related to our indebtedness that may limit our operational flexibility, our ability to compete with our competitors and our ability to pay dividends on our common shares.
General Risks. Our indebtedness subjects us to certain risks, including:
Risks relating to Securitization No. 1. The terms of Securitization No. 1 require us to satisfy certain financial covenants, including the maintenance of debt service coverage ratios. Our compliance with these covenants depends substantially upon the timely receipt of lease payments from our lessees. In particular, during the first five years from issuance, Securitization No. 1 has an amortization schedule that requires that lease payments be applied to reduce the outstanding principal balance of the indebtedness so that such balance remains at 54.8% of the assumed future depreciated value of the portfolio. If the debt service coverage ratio requirements are not met on two consecutive monthly payment dates in the fourth and fifth year following the closing date of Securitization No. 1, and in any month following the fifth anniversary of the closing date, all excess securitization cash flow is required to be used to reduce the principal balance of the indebtedness and will not be available to us for other purposes, including paying dividends to our shareholders.
In addition, under the terms of Securitization No. 1, certain transactions will require the consent or approval of one or more of the securitization trustees, the rating agencies that rated the Portfolio 1 certificates and the financial guaranty insurance policy issuer for the securitization, including (i) sales of aircraft at prices below certain scheduled minimum amounts or, in any calendar year, in amounts in excess of 10% of the portfolio value at the beginning of that year, (ii) the leasing of aircraft to the extent not in compliance with the lessee and geographic concentration limits, and the other operating covenants, pursuant to the terms of the securitization (iii) modifying an aircraft if the cost thereof would exceed certain amounts or (iv) entering into any transaction between us and the Securitization No. 1 entities not already contemplated in the securitization. Absent the aforementioned consent, which we may not receive, the lessee and geographic concentration limits under Securitization No. 1 will require us to re-lease the aircraft to a diverse set of customers, and may place limits on our ability to lease the 40 aircraft, or Portfolio No. 1, which are the security for Securitization No. 1, to certain customers in certain jurisdictions, even if to do so would provide the best risk-adjusted returns at that time.
Risks relating to our credit facilities. The terms of our credit facilities restrict our ability to:
Amended Credit Facility No. 2 requires us to make principal payments to the extent that amounts outstanding under the facility exceed 65% of the purchase price or, in the case of a loan that financed the acquisition of an aircraft that has been outstanding more than twelve months, 65% of 95% of the purchase price, of the aircraft financed with proceeds from the facility. In addition, our Revolving Credit Facility requires us to maintain a minimum consolidated net worth of $550 million. The restrictions described above may impair our ability to operate and compete with our direct and indirect competitors and to pay dividends on our common shares.
Failure to close the Aircraft Acquisition could negatively impact our share price and financial results.
On January 22, 2007 we entered into the Acquisition Agreement; pursuant to which we agreed to acquire 38 aircraft from GAIF for an aggregate base purchase price of approximately $1.595 billion, subject to certain agreed adjustments. The aircraft we will acquire under the Acquisition Agreement are scheduled to be delivered to us through February 2009. As of March 15, 2007, we acquired five of these aircraft. If we are unable to obtain the necessary financing or various conditions to the Aircraft Acquisition are not satisfied, we will be unable to close some or all of the remaining aircraft under the
Acquisition Agreement. If the Aircraft Acquisition is not closed for these or other reasons, we will be subject to several risks, including the following:
These risks could materially and adversely affect our share price and financial results.
Risks Related to Our Aviation Assets
The variability of supply and demand for aircraft could depress lease rates for our aircraft, which would have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects and on our ability to meet our debt obligations and to pay dividends on our common shares.
The aircraft leasing and sales industry has experienced periods of aircraft oversupply and undersupply. The oversupply of a specific type of aircraft in the market is likely to depress aircraft lease rates for and the value of that type of aircraft.
The supply and demand for aircraft is affected by various cyclical and non-cyclical factors that are not under our control, including:
These factors may produce sharp decreases or increases in aircraft values and lease rates, which would impact our cost of acquiring aircraft, and may result in lease defaults and also prevent the aircraft from being re-leased or, if desired, sold on favorable terms. This would have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects and on our ability to meet our debt obligations and to pay dividends on our common shares.
Other factors that increase the risk of decline in aircraft value and lease rates could have an adverse affect on our financial results and growth prospects and on our ability to meet our debt obligations and to pay dividends on our common shares.
In addition to factors linked to the aviation industry generally, other factors that may affect the value and lease rates of our aircraft include:
Any decrease in the values of and lease rates for commercial aircraft which may result from the above factors or other unanticipated factors may have a material adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects and on our ability to meet our debt obligations and to pay dividends on our common shares.
The concentration of aircraft types in our aircraft portfolio could lead to adverse effects on our business and financial results should any difficulties specific to these particular types of aircraft occur.
As of December 31, 2006, our aircraft portfolio is concentrated in the following type groupings by net book value:
Should any of these aircraft types (or other types we acquire in the future) or Airbus or Boeing encounter technical, financial or other difficulties, a diminution in value of such aircraft, an inability to lease the aircraft on favorable terms or at all, or a potential grounding of such aircraft could occur. As a result, the inability to lease the affected aircraft types would likely have an adverse effect on our financial results to the extent the affected aircraft types comprise a significant percentage of our aircraft portfolio. The composition of our aircraft portfolio may therefore adversely affect our business and financial results. In addition, the abandonment or rejection of the lease of any of the aircraft listed above by one or more carriers in reorganization proceedings under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code or comparable statutes in non-U.S. jurisdictions may diminish the value of such aircraft and will subject us to re-leasing risks.
The advanced age of some of our aircraft may expose us to higher than anticipated maintenance related expenses, which could adversely affect our financial results and our ability to pursue additional acquisitions.
As of December 31, 2006, the average age of our aircraft portfolio calculated from the date of delivery by manufacturer, and weighted by net book value, was 8.9 years. In general, the costs of operating an aircraft, including maintenance expenditures, increase with the age of the aircraft. Also,
older aircraft typically are less fuel-efficient than newer aircraft and may be more difficult to re-lease or sell. Variable expenses like fuel, crew size or aging aircraft corrosion control or modification programs and related airworthiness directives could make the operation of older aircraft less economically feasible and may result in increased lessee defaults. We may also incur some of these increased maintenance expenses and regulatory costs upon acquisition or releasing of our aircraft. Any of these expenses or costs will have a negative impact on our financial results and our ability to pursue additional acquisitions.
We operate in a highly competitive market for investment opportunities in aviation assets and for the leasing of aircraft.
A number of entities compete with us to make the types of investments that we plan to make. We compete with public partnerships, investors and funds, commercial and investment banks and commercial finance companies with respect to our investments in debt securities. We compete with other operating lessors, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, financial institutions (including those seeking to dispose of repossessed aircraft at distressed prices), aircraft brokers and other investors with respect to aircraft acquisitions and aircraft leasing. The aircraft leasing industry may be divided into two leasing segments: (i) leasing of new aircraft acquired directly or indirectly from manufacturers and (ii) leasing or re-leasing of aircraft in the secondary market. Currently, we compete primarily in the latter segment, and our competition is comprised of other aircraft leasing companies, including GE Commercial Aviation Services, International Lease Finance Corp., CIT Group, AerCap, Aviation Capital Group, Pegasus, Macquarie Aircraft Leasing, RBS Aviation Capital, AWAS, Babcock & Brown and Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise.
Many of our competitors are substantially larger and have considerably greater financial, technical and marketing resources than we do. Some competitors may have a lower cost of funds and access to funding sources that are not available to us. In addition, some of our competitors may have higher risk tolerances or different risk assessments, which could allow them to consider a wider variety of investments, establish more relationships than us and bid more aggressively on aviation assets available for sale and offer lower lease rates than us. For instance, we may not be able to grant privileged rental rates to airlines in return for equity investments or debt financings in order to lease aircraft and minimize the number of aircraft off lease (unless such equity investments or debt financings are in connection with the bankruptcy, reorganization or similar process of a lessee in settlement of expected or already delinquent obligations, as permitted under the terms of certain of our indebtedness). Certain of our competitors, however, may enter into similar arrangements with troubled lessees to restructure the obligations of those lessees while maximizing the number of aircraft remaining on viable leases to such lessees and minimizing their overall cost. Such disparity could make our acquisitions more costly, impair our ability to effectively compete in the marketplace, maximize our revenues and grow our business. In addition, some competitors may provide financial services, maintenance services or other inducements to potential lessees that we cannot provide. As a result of competitive pressures, we may not be able to take advantage of attractive investment opportunities from time to time, and we may not be able to identify and make investments that are consistent with our investment objectives. Additionally, we may not be able to compete effectively against present and future competitors in the aircraft leasing market. The competitive pressures we face may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may not realize gains or income from our debt investments.
We seek to generate both current income and capital appreciation on our debt securities. The debt securities in which we invest may not appreciate in value, and, in fact, may decline in value and default on interest and/or principal payments. As of December 31, 2006, all of the obligors under our debt investments are U.S. airlines. During the past five years a number of North American passenger airlines, including US Airways, Inc., filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and several major U.S. airlines ceased operations altogether.
As in Europe, North America has experienced the development of low-cost carriers and the resultant increased competition among such carriers and between such carriers and traditional carriers.
This evolution in the North American airline industry may have a material adverse effect on the ability of North American lessees to meet their financial and other obligations under our leases. Accordingly, we may not be able to realize gains or income from our debt investments. Any gains that we do realize may not be sufficient to offset any other losses we experience. Any income that we realize may not be sufficient to offset our expenses.
Declines in the market values of our debt investments may adversely affect periodic reported results and credit availability, which may reduce earnings and, in turn, cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
Our debt investments are, and we believe are likely to continue to be, classified for accounting purposes as available for sale. Changes in the market values of those assets will be directly charged or credited to shareholders’ equity. As a result, a decline in values may reduce the book value of our assets. Moreover, if the decline in value of an available for sale security is considered by our management to be other than temporary, such decline will reduce our earnings.
A decline in the market value of our debt investments may adversely affect us particularly in instances where we have borrowed money based on the market value of those debt investments. If the market value of those assets declines, the lender may require us to post additional collateral to support the loan. If we were unable to post the additional collateral, we would have to sell those assets or other assets at a time when we might not otherwise choose to do so. A reduction in available credit may reduce our earnings and, in turn, cash available for distribution to shareholders.
Market values of our debt investments may decline for a number of reasons, such as causes related to changes in prevailing market rates, increases in defaults, increases in voluntary prepayments for any debt investments that we have that are subject to prepayment risk, and widening of credit spreads.
Risks related to our leases
We generally will need to re-lease or sell aircraft as current leases expire to continue to generate sufficient funds to meet our debt obligations, to finance our growth and operations and to pay dividends on our common shares, and we may not be able to re-lease or sell such aircraft on favorable terms, or at all.
Our business strategy entails the need to re-lease aircraft as our current leases expire in order to continue to generate sufficient revenues to meet our debt obligations, to finance our growth and operations and to pay dividends on our common shares. In certain cases, including the Aircraft Acquisition, we may acquire aircraft that are not leased at the time. The ability to re-lease aircraft at attractive rates will depend on general market and competitive conditions at the particular time. If we are not able to re-lease an aircraft at favorable rates, including aircraft acquired pursuant to the Acquisition Agreement, we may need to attempt to sell the aircraft to provide adequate funds for debt payments and to otherwise finance our growth and operations. Further, our ability to re-lease, lease or sell aircraft on favorable terms or at all or without significant off-lease time is likely to be adversely impacted by risks affecting the airline industry.
A schedule of contractual lease expirations by year and aircraft type is presented in the table below. Leases subject to extension options are shown at the expiration of the current lease term. The table assumes that, except as indicated, no lease terminates prematurely, no substitute aircraft are delivered, no aircraft are sold and no additional aircraft are purchased, even though we acquired aircraft subsequent to December 31, 2006 and are currently committed to purchase additional aircraft as part of the Aircraft Acquisition. Contractual lease revenues earned in 2006 on leases expiring in 2007 and 2008 totaled $8.8 million and $29.7 million, respectively. More aircraft will need to be re-leased to the extent leases terminate prematurely.
Lease Expiration by Year, for aircraft we owned at December 31, 2006
If lessees are unable to fund their maintenance requirements on our aircraft, our cash flow and our ability to meet our debt obligations or to pay dividends on our common shares could be adversely affected.
The standards of maintenance observed by the various lessees and the condition of the aircraft at the time of sale or lease may affect the future values and rental rates for our aircraft.
Under our leases, the relevant lessee is generally responsible for maintaining the aircraft and complying with all governmental requirements applicable to the lessee and the aircraft, including, without limitation, operational, maintenance, and registration requirements and airworthiness directives (although in certain cases we have agreed to share the cost of complying with certain airworthiness directives). Failure of a lessee to perform required maintenance with respect to an aircraft during the term of a lease could result in a diminution in value of such aircraft, an inability to lease the aircraft at favorable rates or at all, or a potential grounding of such aircraft, and will likely require us to incur maintenance and modification costs upon the expiration or earlier termination of the applicable lease, which could be substantial, to restore such aircraft to an acceptable condition prior to sale or re-leasing.
As of December 31, 2006, 40 of our leases provide that the lessee is required to make periodic payments to us during the lease term in order to provide cash reserves for the payment of maintenance tied to the usage of the aircraft. In these leases there is an associated liability for us to reimburse the lessee for such scheduled maintenance performed on the related aircraft, based on formulas tied to the extent of any of the lessee’s maintenance reserve payments. In some cases, we are obligated and in the future may incur additional obligations pursuant to the terms of the leases to contribute to the cost of maintenance work performed by the lessee in addition to maintenance reserve payments.
Our operational cash flow and available liquidity may not be sufficient to fund our maintenance requirements, particularly as our aircraft age. Actual rental and maintenance payments by lessees and other cash that we receive may be significantly less than projected as a result of numerous factors, including defaults by lessees and our potential inability to obtain satisfactory maintenance terms in leases. At December 31, 2006, 27 of our leases do not provide for any periodic maintenance reserve payments to be made by lessees to us in respect of their maintenance obligations, and it is possible that future leases will not contain such requirements. Rather, these lessees are required to make payments at the end of the lease term. Two of our leases require that the lessee make both a monthly maintenance payment and an additional maintenance payment to us at the end of the lease term in certain circumstances. Even if we are entitled to maintenance reserve payments, they may not cover the entire expense of the scheduled maintenance they are intended to fund. In addition, maintenance reserves typically cover only certain scheduled maintenance requirements and do not cover all required maintenance and all scheduled maintenance. Furthermore, lessees may not meet their obligations to pay maintenance reserves or perform required scheduled maintenance. Any significant variations in such factors may materially adversely affect our business and particularly our cash position, which would make it difficult for us to meet our debt obligations or to pay dividends on our common shares.
Failure to pay certain potential additional operating costs could result in the grounding or arrest of our aircraft and prevent the re-lease, sale or other use of our aircraft, which would negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.
As in the case of maintenance costs, we may incur other operational costs upon a lessee default or where the terms of the lease require us to pay a portion of those costs. Such costs include:
The failure to pay certain of these costs can result in liens on the aircraft and the failure to register the aircraft can result in a loss of insurance. These matters could result in the grounding or arrest of the aircraft and prevent the re-lease, sale or other use of the aircraft until the problem is cured, which would negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our lessees may have inadequate insurance coverage or fail to fulfill their respective indemnity obligations, which could result in us not being covered for claims asserted against us and may negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
While we do not directly control the operation of any of our aircraft, by virtue of holding title to the aircraft (directly or through a securitization related special purpose entity), in certain jurisdictions around the world, aircraft lessors are held strictly liable for losses resulting from the operation of aircraft or may be held liable for those losses on other legal theories.
The lessees are required under our leases to indemnify us for, and insure against, liabilities arising out of the use and operation of the aircraft, including third-party claims for death or injury to persons and damage to property for which we may be deemed liable. Lessees are also required to maintain public liability, property damage and hull all risks and hull war risks insurance on the aircraft at agreed upon levels. However, they are not generally required to maintain political risk insurance. The hull insurance is typically subject to standard market hull deductibles based on aircraft type that generally range from $250,000 to $1,000,000. These deductibles may be higher in some leases, and lessees usually have fleet-wide deductibles for liability insurance and occurrence or fleet limits on war risk insurance. Any hull insurance proceeds in respect of such claims shall be paid first to us as lessor in the event of loss of the aircraft or, in the absence of an event of loss of the aircraft, to the lessee to effect repairs or, in the case of liability insurance, for indemnification of third-party liabilities. Subject to the terms of the applicable lease, the balance of any hull insurance proceeds after deduction for all amounts due and payable by the lessee to the lessor under such lease must be paid to the lessee.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, aviation insurers significantly reduced the amount of insurance coverage available to airlines for liability to persons other than employees or passengers for claims resulting from acts of terrorism, war or similar events. At the same time, they significantly increased the premiums for such third-party war risk and terrorism liability insurance and coverage in general. As a result, the amount of such third-party war risk and terrorism liability insurance that is commercially available at any time may be below the amount stipulated in our leases and required by the market in general.
Our lessees’ insurance, including any available governmental supplemental coverage, may not be sufficient to cover all types of claims that may be asserted against us. Any inadequate insurance coverage or default by lessees in fulfilling their indemnification or insurance obligations or the lack of political risk, hull, war or third-party war risk and terrorism liability insurance will reduce the
proceeds that would be received by us upon an event of loss under the respective leases or upon a claim under the relevant liability insurance, which could negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Failure to obtain certain required licenses and approvals could negatively affect our ability to re-lease or sell aircraft, which would negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.
A number of leases require specific licenses, consents or approvals for different aspects of the leases. These include consents from governmental or regulatory authorities for certain payments under the leases and for the import, export or deregistration of the aircraft. Subsequent changes in applicable law or administrative practice may increase such requirements. In addition, a governmental consent, once given, might be withdrawn. Furthermore, consents needed in connection with future re-leasing or sale of an aircraft may not be forthcoming. Any of these events could adversely affect our ability to re-lease or sell aircraft, which would negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Due to the fact that many of our lessees operate in emerging markets, we are indirectly subject to many of the economic and political risks associated with competing in such markets.
Emerging markets are countries which have less developed economies that are vulnerable to economic and political problems, such as significant fluctuations in gross domestic product, interest and currency exchange rates, civil disturbances, government instability, nationalization and expropriation of private assets and the imposition of taxes or other charges by governments. The occurrence of any of these events in markets served by our lessees and the resulting instability may adversely affect our ownership interest in an aircraft or the ability of lessees which operate in these markets to meet their lease obligations and these lessees may be more likely to default than lessees that operate in developed economies. For the year ended December 31, 2006, 14 of our lessees which operated 32 aircraft and generated lease rental revenue representing 37.0% of our total revenue are domiciled or habitually based in emerging markets.
Risks related to our lessees
Lessee defaults and other credit problems could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We operate as a supplier to airlines and are indirectly impacted by all the risks facing airlines today. Our ability to succeed is dependent upon (i) the financial strength of our lessees, (ii) the ability to diligently and appropriately assess the credit risk of our lessees and (iii) the ability of lessees to perform their contractual obligations to us. The ability of each lessee to perform its obligations under its lease will depend primarily on the lessee’s financial condition and cash flow, which may be affected by factors beyond our control, including:
As a general matter, airlines with weak capital structures are more likely than well-capitalized airlines to seek operating leases, and, at any point in time, investors should expect a varying number of lessees and sublessees to experience payment difficulties. As a result of their weak financial condition, a large portion of lessees over time may be significantly in arrears in their rental or maintenance payments. Many of our existing lessees are in a weak financial condition and suffer liquidity problems, and this is likely to be the case in the future and with other lessees and sublessees of our aircraft as well. In addition, many of our lessees are exposed to currency risk due to the fact that they earn revenues in their local currencies and certain of their liabilities and expenses are denominated in U.S. dollars, including lease payments to us. Given the size of our aircraft portfolio, we expect that some lessees from time to time, and possibly in the near future, will be slow in making or will fail to make their payments in full under the leases.
We may not correctly assess the credit risk of each lessee or charge risk-adjusted lease rates, and lessees may not be able to continue to perform their financial and other obligations under our leases in the future. A delayed, missed or reduced rental payment from a lessee decreases our revenues and cash flow and may adversely affect our ability to make payments on our indebtedness and to pay dividends on our common shares. While we may experience some level of delinquency under our leases, default levels may increase over time, particularly as our aircraft portfolio ages and if economic conditions deteriorate. A lessee may experience periodic difficulties that are not financial in nature, which could impair its performance of its maintenance obligations under the leases. These difficulties may include the failure to perform under the required aircraft maintenance program in a sufficient manner and labor-management disagreements or disputes.
We will typically not be in possession of any aircraft while the aircraft are on-lease to the lessees. Consequently, our ability to determine the condition of the aircraft or whether the lessees are properly maintaining the aircraft will be limited to periodic inspections we perform or that are performed on our behalf by third-party service providers or aircraft inspectors. A continuous failure by a lessee to meet its maintenance obligations under the relevant lease could:
In the event that a lessee defaults under a lease, any security deposit paid or letter of credit provided by the lessee may not be sufficient to cover the lessee’s outstanding or unpaid lease obligations and required maintenance expenses.
If our lessees encounter financial difficulties and we decide to restructure our leases with those lessees, this would result in less favorable leases and could result in significant reductions in our cash flow and affect our ability to meet our debt obligations and to pay dividends on our common shares.
When a lessee (i) is late in making payments, (ii) fails to make payments in full or in part under the lease or (iii) has otherwise advised us that it will in the future fail to make payments in full or in part under the lease, we may elect to or be required to restructure the lease. Restructuring may involve anything from a simple rescheduling of payments to the termination of a lease without receiving all or any of the past due amounts. Since our formation in October 2004, none of our lessees have been granted reductions in or deferrals of rental payments due under the leases, although some have been late in making the required lease payments. If any future requests are made and granted, we expect that the reduced or deferred rental payments would be payable over all or some part of the remaining term of the lease although the terms of any revised payment schedules may be unfavorable and such payments may not be made. We may be unable to agree upon acceptable terms for some or all of the requested restructurings and as a result may be forced to exercise our remedies under those
leases. If we, in the exercise of our remedies, repossess the aircraft, we may not be able to re-lease the aircraft promptly at favorable rates, or at all. You should expect that restructurings and/or repossessions with some lessees might occur.
The terms and conditions of possible lease restructurings may result in significant reductions of rental payments, which may adversely affect our cash flows and our ability to meet our debt obligations and to pay dividends on our common shares.
Significant costs resulting from lease defaults could have an adverse effect on our business.
Although we have the right to repossess the aircraft and to exercise other remedies upon a lessee default, repossession of an aircraft after a lessee default would result in us incurring costs in excess of those incurred with respect to an aircraft returned at the end of the lease. Those costs include legal and other expenses of court or other governmental proceedings (including the cost of posting surety bonds or letters of credit necessary to effect repossession of aircraft), particularly if the lessee is contesting the proceedings or is in bankruptcy, to obtain possession and/or de-registration of the aircraft and flight and export permissions. Delays resulting from any of these proceedings would also increase the period of time during which the relevant aircraft is not generating revenue. In addition, we may incur substantial maintenance, refurbishment or repair costs that a defaulting lessee has failed to pay and that are necessary to put the aircraft in suitable condition for re-lease or sale and we may need to pay off liens, taxes and other governmental charges on the aircraft to obtain clear possession and to remarket the aircraft effectively. We may also incur other costs in connection with the physical possession of the aircraft.
We may also suffer other adverse consequences as a result of a lessee default and the related termination of the lease and the repossession of the related aircraft. Our rights upon a lessee default vary significantly depending upon the jurisdiction and the applicable laws, including the need to obtain a court order for repossession of the aircraft and/or consents for de-registration or re-export of the aircraft. When a defaulting lessee is in bankruptcy, protective administration, insolvency or similar proceedings, additional limitations may apply. Certain jurisdictions will give rights to the trustee in bankruptcy or a similar officer to assume or reject the lease or to assign it to a third party, or will entitle the lessee or another third party to retain possession of the aircraft without paying lease rentals or performing all or some of the obligations under the relevant lease. Certain of our lessees are owned in whole or in part by government-related entities, which could complicate our efforts to repossess our aircraft in that government’s jurisdiction. Accordingly, we may be delayed in, or prevented from, enforcing certain of our rights under a lease and in re-leasing the affected aircraft.
If we repossess an aircraft, we will not necessarily be able to export or de-register and profitably redeploy the aircraft. For instance, where a lessee or other operator flies only domestic routes in the jurisdiction in which the aircraft is registered, repossession may be more difficult, especially if the jurisdiction permits the lessee or the other operator to resist de-registration. Significant costs may also be incurred in retrieving or recreating aircraft records required for registration of the aircraft and obtaining a certificate of airworthiness for the aircraft.
If our lessees fail to appropriately discharge aircraft liens, we might find it necessary to pay such claims, which could have a negative effect on our cash position and our business.
In the normal course of business, liens that secure the payment of airport fees and taxes, custom duties, air navigation charges (including charges imposed by Eurocontrol), landing charges, crew wages, repairer’s charges, salvage or other liens, or ‘‘Aircraft Liens,’’ are likely, depending on the jurisdiction in question, to attach to the aircraft. The Aircraft Liens may secure substantial sums that may, in certain jurisdictions or for limited types of Aircraft Liens (particularly fleet liens), exceed the value of the particular aircraft to which the Aircraft Liens have attached. Although the financial obligations relating to these Aircraft Liens are the responsibilities of our lessees, if they fail to fulfill their obligations, Aircraft Liens may attach to our aircraft and ultimately become our responsibility. In some jurisdictions, Aircraft Liens may give the holder thereof the right to detain or, in limited cases, sell or cause the forfeiture of the aircraft.
Until they are discharged, Aircraft Liens could impair our ability to repossess, re-lease or resell our aircraft. Our lessees may not comply with their obligations under their respective leases to
discharge Aircraft Liens arising during the terms of their leases, whether or not due to financial difficulties. If they do not, we may, in some cases, find it necessary to pay the claims secured by such Aircraft Liens in order to repossess the aircraft. Such payments would adversely affect our cash position and our business generally.
Failure to register aircraft in certain jurisdictions could result in adverse effects and penalties which could materially affect our business.
Pursuant to our existing leases, all of our aircraft are required to be duly registered at all times with the appropriate governmental civil aviation authority. Generally, in jurisdictions outside the United States, failure to maintain the registration of any aircraft that is on-lease would be a default under the applicable lease, entitling us to exercise our rights and remedies thereunder if enforceable under applicable law. If an aircraft were to be operated without a valid registration, the lessee operator or, in some cases, the owner or lessor might be subject to penalties, which could constitute or result in an Aircraft Lien being placed on such aircraft. Lack of registration could have other adverse effects, including the inability to operate the aircraft and loss of insurance coverage, which in turn could have a material adverse effect on our business.
If our lessees fail to comply with government regulations regarding aircraft maintenance, we could be subject to costs that could adversely affect our cash position and our business.
In addition to the general aviation authority regulations and requirements regarding maintenance of aircraft, our aircraft may be subject to further maintenance requirements imposed by airworthiness directives, or ‘‘Airworthiness Directives,’’ issued by aviation authorities. Airworthiness Directives typically set forth particular special maintenance actions or modifications to certain aircraft types or models that the owners or operators of aircraft must implement.
Each lessee generally is responsible for complying with all of the Airworthiness Directives with respect to the leased aircraft and is required to maintain the aircraft’s airworthiness. However, if a lessee fails to satisfy its obligations, or we have undertaken some obligations as to airworthiness under a lease, we may be required to bear (or, to the extent required under the relevant lease, to share) the cost of any Airworthiness Directives compliance. If any of our aircraft are not subject to a lease, we would be required to bear the entire cost of compliance. Such payments would adversely affect our cash position and our business generally.
Risks associated with the concentration of our lessees in certain geographical regions could harm our business.
Our business is exposed to local economic and political conditions that can influence the performance of lessees located in a particular region. Such adverse economic and political conditions include additional regulation or, in extreme cases, requisition. The effect of these conditions on payments to us will be more or less pronounced, depending on the concentration of lessees in the region with adverse conditions. For the year ended December 31, 2006, lease rental revenues, as a percentage of total revenues, from lessees in the following regions, were 41% in Europe, 25% in North America, 22% in Asia (including 13% in China), 5% in Latin America, and 2% in Africa.
Lease rental revenues from 19 lessees based in Europe accounted for 41% of our total revenues for the year ended December 31, 2006. Commercial airlines in Europe face, and can be expected to continue to face, increased competitive pressures, in part as a result of the deregulation of the airline industry by the European Union and the resultant development of low-cost carriers.
European countries generally have relatively strict environmental regulations and traffic constraints that can restrict operational flexibility and decrease aircraft productivity, which could significantly increase aircraft operating costs of all aircraft, including our aircraft, thereby adversely affecting lessees. The airline industry in European countries, as in the rest of the world generally, is
highly sensitive to general economic conditions. A recession or other worsening of economic conditions or a terrorist attack in one or more of these countries, particularly if combined with either or both high fuel prices and a weak euro or other local currency, may have a material adverse effect on the ability of European lessees to meet their financial and other obligations under our leases.
North American Concentration
Lease rental revenues from three lessees based in North America accounted for 25% of our total revenues for the year ended December 31, 2006. During the past 15 years a number of North American passenger airlines, including US Airways, Inc, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and several major U.S. airlines ceased operations altogether. The outbreak of SARS, the war and prolonged conflict in Iraq and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States have imposed additional financial burdens on most U.S. airlines through tightened security measures and reduced demand for air travel.
Lease rental revenues from six lessees based in Asia accounted for 22% of our total revenues for the year ended December 31, 2006. The outbreak of SARS in 2003 had the largest negative impact on Asia, particularly China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. More recently, the Asian airline industry is demonstrating signs of recovery; however, a recurrence of SARS or the outbreak of another epidemic disease, such as avian influenza, which many experts think would originate in Asia, would likely adversely affect the Asian airline industry.
Lease rental revenues from two lessees based in China accounted for 13% of our total revenues for the year ended December 31, 2006, with one lessee, Hainan Airlines, accounting for 8% of our total revenues. Major obstacles to the Chinese airline industry’s development exist, including the continuing government control and regulation over the industry. If such control and regulation persists or expands, the Chinese airline industry would likely experience a significant decrease in growth or restrictions on future growth, and it is conceivable that our interests in aircraft on-lease to or our ability to lease to Chinese carriers could be adversely affected.
Risks Related to the Aviation Industry
As high fuel prices continue to impact the profitability of the airline industry, our lessees might not be able to meet their lease payment obligations, which would have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects.
Fuel costs represent a major expense to companies operating within the airline industry. Fuel prices fluctuate widely depending primarily on international market conditions, geopolitical and environmental events and currency/exchange rates. As a result, fuel costs are not within the control of lessees and significant changes would materially affect their operating results.
Factors such as natural disasters can significantly affect fuel availability and prices. In August and September 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita inflicted widespread damage along the Gulf Coast of the United States, causing significant disruptions to oil production, refinery operations and pipeline capacity in the region and to oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. These disruptions have resulted in decreased fuel availability and higher fuel prices.
Fuel prices currently remain at historically high levels. The continuing high cost of fuel has had, and sustained high costs in the future may continue to have, a material adverse impact on airlines’ profitability (including our lessees). Due to the competitive nature of the airline industry, airlines have been and may continue to be unable to pass on increases in fuel prices to their customers by increasing fares in a manner that fully off-set the costs incurred. In addition, airlines may not be able to manage this risk by appropriately hedging their exposure to fuel price fluctuations. If fuel prices remain at historically high levels or increase further due to future terrorist attacks, acts of war, armed hostilities, natural disasters or for any other reason, they are likely to cause our lessees to incur higher costs and/or generate lower revenues, resulting in an adverse impact on their financial condition and
liquidity. Consequently, these conditions may (i) affect our lessees’ ability to make rental and other lease payments, (ii) result in lease restructurings and/or aircraft repossessions, (iii) increase our costs of servicing and marketing our aircraft, (iv) impair our ability to re-lease the aircraft or re-lease or otherwise dispose of the aircraft on a timely basis at favorable rates or terms, or at all, and (v) reduce the proceeds received for the aircraft upon any disposition. These results could have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects.
If the effects of terrorist attacks and geopolitical conditions continue to adversely impact the financial condition of the airlines, our lessees might not be able to meet their lease payment obligations, which would have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects.
As a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and subsequent terrorist attacks abroad, notably in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe, increased security restrictions were implemented on air travel, airline costs for aircraft insurance and enhanced security measures have increased, passenger demand for air travel has decreased and airlines have faced and continue to face increased difficulties in acquiring war risk and other insurance, at reasonable costs. In addition, war or armed hostilities in the Middle East, North Korea or elsewhere, or the fear of such events, could further exacerbate many of the problems experienced as a result of terrorist attacks. The situation in Iraq continues to be uncertain and tension over Iran’s nuclear program continues, and either or both may lead to further instability in the Middle East. Future terrorist attacks, war or armed hostilities, or the fear of such events, could further negatively impact the airline industry and may have an adverse effect on the financial condition and liquidity of our lessees, aircraft values and rental rates and may lead to lease restructurings or aircraft repossessions, all of which could adversely affect our financial results and growth prospects.
Terrorist attacks and geopolitical conditions have negatively affected the airline industry and concerns about geopolitical conditions and further terrorist attacks could continue to negatively affect airlines (including our lessees) for the foreseeable future depending upon various factors, including: (i) higher costs to the airlines due to the increased security measures; (ii) decreased passenger demand and revenue due to the inconvenience of additional security measures; (iii) the price and availability of jet fuel and the cost and practicability of obtaining fuel hedges under current market conditions; (iv) higher financing costs and difficulty in raising the desired amount of proceeds on favorable terms, or at all; (v) the significantly higher costs of aircraft insurance coverage for future claims caused by acts of war, terrorism, sabotage, hijacking and other similar perils, and the extent to which such insurance has been or will continue to be available; (vi) the ability of airlines to reduce their operating costs and conserve financial resources, taking into account the increased costs incurred as a consequence of terrorist attacks and geopolitical conditions, including those referred to above; and (vii) special charges recognized by some airlines, such as those related to the impairment of aircraft and other long lived assets stemming from the grounding of aircraft as a result of terrorist attacks, the economic slowdown and airline reorganizations.
Future terrorist attacks, acts of war or armed hostilities may further increase airline costs, depress air travel demand, depress aircraft values and rental rates or cause certain aviation insurance to become available only at significantly increased premiums (which may be for reduced amounts of coverage that are insufficient to comply with the levels of insurance coverage currently required by aircraft lenders and lessors or by applicable government regulations) or not be available at all.
Although the Aircraft Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act adopted in the United States and similar programs instituted by the governments of some other countries provide for limited government coverage for certain aviation insurance, these programs may not continue nor is there any guarantee such government will pay under these programs in a timely fashion.
If the current industry conditions should continue or become exacerbated due to future terrorist attacks, acts of war or armed hostilities, they are likely to cause our lessees to incur higher costs and to generate lower revenues, resulting in an adverse effect on their financial condition and liquidity. Consequently, these conditions may affect their ability to make rental and other lease payments to us or obtain the types and amounts of insurance required by the applicable leases (which may in turn lead to aircraft groundings), may result in additional lease restructurings and aircraft repossessions,
may increase our cost of re-leasing or selling the aircraft and may impair our ability to re-lease or otherwise dispose of the aircraft on a timely basis at favorable rates or on favorable terms, or at all, and may reduce the proceeds received for the aircraft upon any disposition. These results could have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects.
The effects of SARS or other epidemic diseases may negatively impact the airline industry in the future, which might cause our lessees to not be able to meet their lease payment obligations to us, which would have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects.
The spread of SARS in 2003 was linked to air travel early in its development and negatively impacted passenger demand for air travel at that time. While the World Heath Organization’s travel bans related to SARS have been lifted, SARS had a severe impact on the aviation industry, which was evidenced by a sharp reduction in passenger bookings and cancellation of many flights and employee layoffs. While these effects were felt most acutely in Asia, SARS did spread to other areas, including North America. Since 2003, there have been several outbreaks of avian influenza, beginning in Asia and, most recently, spreading to certain parts of Africa and Europe. Although human cases of avian influenza so far have been limited in number, the World Health Organization has expressed serious concern that a human influenza pandemic could develop from the avian influenza virus. In such an event, numerous responses, including travel restrictions, might be necessary to combat the spread of the disease. Additional outbreaks of SARS or other epidemic diseases such as avian influenza, or the fear of such events, could negatively impact passenger demand for air travel and the aviation industry, which could result in our lessees’ inability to satisfy their lease payment obligations to us, which in turn would have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects.
If recent industry economic losses and airline reorganizations continue, our lessees might not be able to meet their lease payment obligations to us, which would have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects.
As a result of reduced fares, international economic conditions, a significant increase in oil prices, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the war and prolonged conflict in Iraq and outbreaks of epidemic diseases such as SARS and avian influenza, the aviation industry as a whole suffered significant losses since 2001 and such losses are expected to continue for the foreseeable future for certain parts of the industry. Many airlines, including a significant number of our lessees, have announced or implemented reductions in capacity, service and workforce in response to industry-wide reductions in passenger demands and fares. In addition, since September 11, 2001, several U.S. airlines have sought to reorganize (and, in certain instances, have reorganized) under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, including United Air Lines, Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Northwest Airlines Corp., US Airways, Inc. (one of our largest customers), Hawaiian Airlines, ATA Airlines, Inc., Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. and Aloha Airlines, and further U.S. airline reorganizations are possible. Certain European and Latin American airlines, including Sabena Air Lines, Swiss Air Transport Company Limited, Volare Airlines S.p.A., Varig Brazilian Airlines and Avianca, have also filed for protection under applicable bankruptcy laws. In addition, Air Canada (the largest Canadian airline) filed for protection under Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. Historically, airlines involved in reorganizations have undertaken substantial fare discounting to maintain cash flows and to encourage continued customer loyalty. Such fare discounting has led to lower profitability for all airlines, including certain of our lessees. The bankruptcies and reduced demand generally have led to the grounding of significant numbers of aircraft and negotiated reductions in aircraft lease rental rates, with the effect of depressing aircraft market values. In addition, requests for additional labor concessions may result in significant labor disputes which could lead to strikes or slowdowns or may otherwise adversely affect labor relations, thereby worsening the financial condition of the airline industry and placing downward pressure on lease rates and aircraft values. Additional reorganizations or liquidations by airlines under Chapter 11 or Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code or other bankruptcy or reorganization laws in other countries or further rejection of aircraft leases or abandonment of aircraft by airlines in a Chapter 11 proceeding under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code or equivalent laws in other countries may have already exacerbated and would be expected to further exacerbate such depressed aircraft values and lease rates. Additional grounded aircraft and lower market values would adversely affect our ability to sell certain of our
aircraft on favorable terms, or at all, or re-lease other aircraft at favorable rates comparable to the then current market conditions, which collectively would have an adverse effect on our financial results and growth prospects.
Risks Related to Our Organization and Structure
If the ownership of our common shares continues to be highly concentrated, it may prevent you and other minority shareholders from influencing significant corporate decisions and may result in conflicts of interest.
Entities affiliated with Fortress funds beneficially own 40,525,000 shares, or approximately 60.2% of our common shares. As a result, Fortress is able to control fundamental corporate matters and transactions, including: the election of directors; mergers, amalgamations (subject to prior board approval), consolidations or acquisitions; the sale of all or substantially all of our assets; in certain circumstances, the amendment of our bye-laws; and our winding up and dissolution. This concentration of ownership may delay, deter or prevent acts that would be favored by our other shareholders. The interests of the Fortress funds may not always coincide with our interests or the interests of our other shareholders. This concentration of ownership may also have the effect of delaying, preventing or deterring a change in control of our company. Also, the Fortress funds may seek to cause us to take courses of action that, in their judgment, could enhance their investment in us, but which might involve risks to our other shareholders or adversely affect us or our other shareholders, including investors in this offering. In addition, under our Shareholders Agreement between us and the Fortress funds, an affiliate of Fortress is entitled to designate up to four directors for election to our board of directors, depending upon the level of ownership of the Fortress funds in us. As a result, the market price of our common shares could decline or shareholders might not receive a premium over the then-current market price of our common shares upon a change in control. In addition, this concentration of share ownership may adversely affect the trading price of our common shares because investors may perceive disadvantages in owning shares in a company with a significant shareholder.
We are a holding company with no operations and rely on our operating subsidiaries to provide us with funds necessary to meet our financial obligations.
We are a holding company with no material direct operations. Our principal assets are the equity interests we directly or indirectly hold in our operating subsidiaries. As a result, we are dependent on loans, dividends and other payments from our subsidiaries to generate the funds necessary to meet our financial obligations and to pay dividends on our common shares. Our subsidiaries are legally distinct from us and may be prohibited or restricted from paying dividends or otherwise making funds available to us under certain conditions.
We are a Bermuda company and it may be difficult for you to enforce judgments against us or our directors and executive officers.
We are a Bermuda exempted company and, as such, the rights of holders of our common shares will be governed by Bermuda law and our memorandum of association and bye-laws. The rights of shareholders under Bermuda law may differ from the rights of shareholders of companies incorporated in other jurisdictions. Some of the named experts referred to in this report are not residents of the United States, and a substantial portion of our assets are located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult for investors to affect service of process on those persons in the United States or to enforce in the United States judgments obtained in U.S. courts against us or those persons based on the civil liability provisions of the U.S. securities laws. Uncertainty exists as to whether courts in Bermuda will enforce judgments obtained in other jurisdictions, including the United States, against us or our directors or officers under the securities laws of those jurisdictions or entertain actions in Bermuda against us or our directors or officers under the securities laws of other jurisdictions.
Our bye-laws restrict shareholders from bringing legal action against our officers and directors.
Our bye-laws contain a broad waiver by our shareholders of any claim or right of action, both individually and on our behalf, against any of our officers or directors. The waiver applies to any
action taken by an officer or director, or the failure of an officer or director to take any action, in the performance of his or her duties, except with respect to any matter involving any fraud or dishonesty on the part of the officer or director. This waiver limits the right of shareholders to assert claims against our officers and directors unless the act or failure to act involves fraud or dishonesty.
We have anti-takeover provisions in our bye-laws that may discourage a change of control.
Our bye-laws contain provisions that could make it more difficult for a third party to acquire us without the consent of our board of directors. These provisions provide for:
In addition, these provisions may make it difficult and expensive for a third party to pursue a tender offer, change in control or takeover attempt that is opposed by Fortress, our management and/or our board of directors. Public shareholders who might desire to participate in these types of transactions may not have an opportunity to do so. These anti-takeover provisions could substantially impede the ability of public shareholders to benefit from a change in control or change our management and board of directors and, as a result, may adversely affect the market price of our common shares and your ability to realize any potential change of control premium.
There are provisions in our bye-laws that may require certain of our non-U.S. shareholders to sell their shares to us or to a third party.
Our bye-laws provide that if our board of directors determines that we or any of our subsidiaries do not meet, or in the absence of repurchases of shares will fail to meet, the ownership requirements of a limitation on benefits article of any bilateral income tax treaty with the U.S. applicable to us, and that such tax treaty would provide material benefits to us or any of our subsidiaries, we generally have the right, but not the obligation, to repurchase, at fair market value (as determined pursuant to the method set forth in our bye-laws), common shares from any shareholder who beneficially owns more than 5% of our issued and outstanding common shares and who fails to demonstrate to our satisfaction that such shareholder is either (i) a U.S. citizen or (ii) a qualified resident of the U.S. or the other contracting state of any applicable tax treaty with the U.S. (as determined for purposes of the relevant provision of the limitation on benefits article of such treaty).
We will have the option, but not the obligation, to purchase all or a part of the shares held by such shareholder (to the extent the board of directors, in the reasonable exercise of its discretion,
determines it is necessary to avoid or cure such adverse consequences); provided that the board of directors will use its reasonable efforts to exercise this option equitably among similarly situated shareholders (to the extent feasible under the circumstances).
Instead of exercising the repurchase right described above, we will have the right, but not the obligation, to cause the transfer to, and procure the purchase by, any U.S. citizen or a qualified resident of the U.S. or the other contracting state of the applicable tax treaty (as determined for purposes of the relevant provision of the limitation on benefits article of such treaty) of the number of issued and outstanding common shares beneficially owned by any shareholder that are otherwise subject to repurchase under our bye-laws as described above, at fair market value (as determined in the good faith discretion of our board of directors).
Risks Related to Our Common Shares
The market price and trading volume of our common shares may be volatile or may decline regardless of our operating performance, which could result in rapid and substantial losses for our shareholders.
Our common shares have been publicly traded for only a few months and we cannot predict the extent to which a trading market for our common shares will further develop or be sustained. In addition, the trading volume in our common shares may fluctuate and cause significant price variations to occur. If the market price of our common shares declines significantly, shareholders may be unable to resell their shares at or above their purchase price.
The market price or trading volume of our common shares could be highly volatile and may decline significantly in the future in response to various factors, many of which are beyond our control, including:
In addition, the equity markets in general have frequently experienced substantial price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of companies traded in those markets. Changes in economic conditions in the U.S., Europe or globally
could also impact our ability to grow profitably. These broad market and industry factors may materially affect the market price of our common shares, regardless of our business or operating performance. In the past, following periods of volatility in the market price of a company’s securities, securities class-action litigation has often been instituted against that company. Such litigation, if instituted against us, could cause us to incur substantial costs and divert management’s attention and resources, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Future debt, which would be senior to our common shares upon liquidation, and additional equity securities, which would dilute the percentage ownership of our then current common shareholders and may be senior to our common shares for the purposes of dividends and liquidation distributions, may adversely affect the market price of our common shares.
In the future, we may attempt to increase our capital resources by incurring debt or issuing additional equity securities, including commercial paper, medium-term notes, senior or subordinated notes or loans and series of preference shares or common shares. Upon liquidation, holders of our debt securities and preference shares and lenders with respect to other borrowings would receive a distribution of our available assets prior to the holders of our common shares. Additional equity offerings would dilute the holdings of our then current common shareholders and could reduce the market price of our common shares, or both. Preference shares, if issued, could have a preference on liquidating distributions or a preference on dividend payments. Restrictive provisions in our debt and/or preference shares could limit our ability to make a distribution to the holders of our common shares. Because our decision to incur more debt or issue additional equity securities in the future will depend on market conditions and other factors beyond our control, we cannot predict or estimate the amount, timing or nature of our future capital raising activities. Thus, holders of our common shares bear the risk of our future debt and equity issuances reducing the market price of our common shares and diluting their percentage ownership in us.
The market price of our common shares could be negatively affected by sales of substantial amounts of our common shares in the public markets.
As of March 15, 2007, there were 67,268,629 shares issued and outstanding, all of which are freely transferable, except for any shares held by our ‘‘affiliates,’’ as that term is defined in Rule 144 under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act. The remaining outstanding common shares will be deemed ‘‘restricted securities’’ as that term is defined in Rule 144 under the Securities Act.
Pursuant to our Amended and Restated Shareholders Agreement, the Fortress funds and certain Fortress affiliates and permitted third-party transferees have the right, in certain circumstances, to require us to register their 40,375,000 common shares under the Securities Act for sale into the public markets. Upon the effectiveness of such a registration statement, all shares covered by the registration statement will be freely transferable. See ‘‘Certain Relationships and Related Party Transactions — Shareholders Agreement.’’
In connection with our follow-on public offering in February 2007, we and our executive officers, directors, participants in our directed share program and Fortress agreed with the underwriters that, subject to certain exceptions, during the period from February 7, 2007 through April 8, 2007, we and they will not directly or indirectly offer, pledge, announce the intention to sell, sell, contract to sell, sell any option or contract to purchase, purchase any option or contract to sell, grant any option, right or warrant to purchase or otherwise transfer, dispose of or hedge, directly or indirectly, our common shares or any securities convertible into or exercisable or exchangeable for our common shares, or enter into any swap or other agreement that transfers, in whole or in part, any of the economic consequences associated with the ownership of common shares, or cause a registration statement covering our common shares to be filed, without the prior written consent of the representatives. The 60-day restricted period described above is subject to an automatic extension under certain circumstances. The underwriters may waive these restrictions at their discretion.
In addition, following the completion of our initial public offering in August 2006, we filed a registration statement on Form S-8 under the Securities Act to register an aggregate of 4,000,000 of
our common shares reserved for issuance under our equity incentive plan, subject to annual increases of 100,000 common shares per year, beginning in 2007 and continuing through and including 2016. Subject to any restrictions imposed on the shares and options granted under our equity incentive plan, shares registered under the registration statement on Form S-8 are available for sale into the public markets subject to the 60-day lock-up agreements referred to above.
The issuance of additional common shares in connection with acquisitions or otherwise will dilute all other shareholdings.
As of March 15, 2007, we had an aggregate of 179,793,923 common shares authorized but unissued and not reserved for issuance under our incentive plan. We may issue all of these common shares without any action or approval by our shareholders. We intend to continue to actively pursue acquisitions of aviation assets and may issue common shares in connection with these acquisitions. Any common shares issued in connection with our acquisitions, our incentive plan, the exercise of outstanding share options or otherwise would dilute the percentage ownership held by existing shareholders.
Risks Related to Taxation
If AL were treated as engaged in a trade or business in the United States, it would be subject to U.S. federal income taxation on a net income basis, which would adversely affect our business and result in decreased cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
If, contrary to expectations, AL were treated as engaged in a trade or business in the United States, the portion of AL’s net income, if any, that was ‘‘effectively connected’’ with such trade or business would be subject to U.S. federal income taxation at a maximum rate of 35%. In addition, AL would be subject to the U.S. federal branch profits tax on its effectively connected earnings and profits at a rate of 30%. The imposition of such taxes would adversely affect our business and would result in decreased cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
If substantially all of the U.S. source rental income of Aircastle Bermuda is attributable to activities of Aircastle personnel based in the United States, Aircastle Bermuda could be subject to U.S. federal income taxation on a net income basis rather than at a rate of 4% of its U.S. source gross rental income, which would adversely affect our business and result in decreased cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
We have adopted certain operating procedures designed to limit the amount of income generated by Aircastle Bermuda that is treated as effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business. Accordingly, it is generally expected that Aircastle Bermuda’s U.S. source rental income will be subject to U.S. federal taxation, on a gross income basis, at a rate not in excess of 4%. If, contrary to expectations, we do not comply with certain administrative guidelines of the Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS, such that 90% or more of Aircastle Bermuda’s U.S. source rental income were attributable to the activities of personnel based in the United States, Aircastle Bermuda’s U.S. source rental income could be treated as income effectively connected with the conduct of a trade or business in the United States. In such case, Aircastle Bermuda’s U.S. source rental income would be subject to U.S. federal income taxation at a maximum rate of 35%. In addition, Aircastle Bermuda would be subject to the U.S. federal branch profits tax on its effectively connected earnings and profits at a rate of 30%. The imposition of such taxes would adversely affect our business and would result in decreased cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
One or more of our Irish subsidiaries could fail to qualify for treaty benefits, which would subject certain of their income to U.S. federal income taxation, which would adversely affect our business and result in decreased cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
Our Irish subsidiaries do not expect to have any U.S. federal income tax liability with respect to (i) rental income attributable to aircraft used in international traffic or (ii) gain from the sale of aircraft used in international traffic. For this purpose, ‘‘international traffic’’ includes all flights other than those that are conducted from one point in the United States to another point in the United
States. In order for each of our Irish subsidiaries to avoid U.S. federal income taxation of such income, it may be necessary for such subsidiary to qualify for the benefits of the income tax treaty between the United States and Ireland, or the Irish Treaty. Qualification for the benefits of the Irish Treaty depends on many factors, including being able to establish the identity of the ultimate beneficial owners of our common shares. Each of the Irish subsidiaries may not satisfy all the requirements of the Irish Treaty and thereby may not qualify each year for the benefits of the Irish Treaty. Moreover, the provisions of the Irish Treaty may change. Failure to so qualify could result in the rental income from aircraft used for flights to, from or within the United States being subject to U.S. federal income taxation at a maximum rate of 35% (plus the 30% U.S. federal branch profits tax on effectively connected earnings and profits). The imposition of such taxes would adversely affect our business and would result in decreased cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
We may become subject to an increased rate of Irish taxation which would adversely affect our business and would result in decreased earnings available for distribution to our shareholders.
Our Irish subsidiaries and affiliates are expected to be subject to corporation tax on their income from leasing, managing and servicing aircraft at the 12.5% tax rate applicable to trading income. This expectation is based on certain assumptions, including that we will maintain at least the current level of our business operations in Ireland. If we are not successful in achieving trading status in Ireland the income of our Irish subsidiaries and affiliates will be subject to corporation tax at the 25% rate applicable to non-trading activities which would adversely affect our business and would result in decreased earnings available for distribution to our shareholders.
We may become subject to income or other taxes in the non-U.S. jurisdictions in which our aircraft operate, where our lessees are located or where we perform certain services which would adversely affect our business and result in decreased cash available for distributions to shareholders.
Certain Aircastle entities are expected to be subject to the income tax laws of Ireland and/or the United States. In addition, we may be subject to income or other taxes in other jurisdictions by reason of our activities and operations, where our aircraft operate or where the lessees of our aircraft (or others in possession of our aircraft) are located. Although we have adopted operating procedures to reduce the exposure to such taxation, we may be subject to such taxes in the future and such taxes may be substantial. In addition, if we do not follow separate operating guidelines relating to managing a portion of its aircraft portfolio through offices in Ireland and Singapore, income from aircraft not owned in such jurisdictions would be subject to local tax. The imposition of such taxes would adversely affect our business and would result in decreased earnings available for distribution to our shareholders.
AL expects to be a PFIC and a controlled foreign corporation, or CFC, for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
We expect to be treated as a PFIC and a CFC for U.S. federal income tax purposes. If you are a U.S. person and own less than 10% of our voting shares and do not make a qualified electing fund, or QEF, election with respect to us and each of our PFIC subsidiaries, you would be subject to special deferred tax and interest charges with respect to certain distributions on our common shares, any gain realized on a disposition of our common shares and certain other events. The effect of these deferred tax and interest charges could be materially adverse to you. Alternatively, if you are such a shareholder and make a QEF election for us and our subsidiaries, or you own 10% or more of our voting shares, you will not be subject to those charges, but could recognize taxable income in a taxable year with respect to our common shares in excess of any distributions that we make to you in that year, thus giving rise to so-called ‘‘phantom income’’ and to a potential out-of-pocket tax liability.
Distributions made to you if you are a U.S. person that is an individual will not be eligible for taxation at reduced tax rates generally applicable to dividends paid by certain United States corporations and ‘‘qualified foreign corporations’’ on or after January 1, 2003. The more favorable rates applicable to regular corporate dividends could cause individuals to perceive investment in our shares to be relatively less attractive than investment in the shares of other corporations, which could adversely affect the value of our shares.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
As of December 31, 2006, we are not an accelerated filer or a large accelerated filer, as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act, or a well-known seasoned issuer as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
We lease approximately 13,000 square feet of office space in Stamford, Connecticut for our corporate operations. This lease expires in December, 2012 and requires payments of approximately $500,000 per year.
In addition, we lease approximately 3,380 square feet of office space in Dublin, Ireland for our acquisition, aircraft leasing and asset management operations in Europe. The lease for the Irish facility expires in June 2016 and requires payments of approximately €135,553 per year.
We believe our current facilities are adequate for our current needs and that suitable additional space will be available as and when needed.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
The Company is not a party to any material legal or adverse regulatory proceedings.
ITEM 4. SUBMISSION OF MATTERS TO A VOTE OF SECURITY HOLDERS
No shareholder votes took place during the fourth quarter of the year ended December 31, 2006.
Executive Officers of the Registrant
Executive officers are elected by our board of directors, and their terms of office continue until the next annual meeting of the board or until their successors are elected and have been duly qualified. There are no family relationships among our executive officers.
Set forth below is information pertaining to our executive officers who held office as of March 15, 2007:
Ron Wainshal, 43, became our Chief Executive Officer in May 2005. Prior to joining Aircastle, Mr. Wainshal was in charge of the Asset Management group of General Electric Commercial Aviation Service, or GECAS, from 2003 to 2005. Since joining GECAS in 1998, Ron also led many of GECAS’ U.S. airline restructuring efforts and its bond market activities, and played a major marketing and structured finance role for GECAS in the Americas. Before joining GECAS, he was a principal and co-owner of a financial advisory company specializing in transportation infrastructure from 1994 to 1998 and prior to that held positions at Capstar Partners and The Transportation Group in New York and Ryder System in Miami. He received a BS in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business.
Mark Zeidman, 55, became our Chief Financial Officer in August 2005. Prior to joining Aircastle, Mr. Zeidman was Chief Financial Officer and Chief Investment Officer at Ocwen Financial Corporation, a mortgage finance firm listed on the NYSE, from May 1997 to March 2005. Prior to Ocwen, Mr. Zeidman was a managing director at Nomura Securities International from May 1987 to May 1997. Mr. Zeidman brings a strong finance background to Aircastle. He received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of International Affairs from the School of International Affairs at Columbia University and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
David Walton, 45, became our General Counsel in March 2005 and our Chief Operating Officer in January 2006. Prior to joining Aircastle, Mr. Walton was Chief Legal Officer of Boullioun Aviation Services, Inc. from 1996 to 2005. Prior to that, Mr. Walton was a partner at the law firm of Perkins
Coie in Seattle and Hong Kong. Mr. Walton has over 20 years of experience in aircraft leasing and finance. He received a BA in Political Science from Stanford University and a JD from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley.
Joseph Schreiner, 49, became our Executive Vice President, Technical in October 2004. Prior to joining Aircastle, Mr. Schreiner oversaw the technical department at AAR Corp, a provider of products and services to the aviation and defense industries from 1998 to 2004 where he managed aircraft and engine evaluations and inspections, aircraft lease transitions, reconfiguration and heavy maintenance. Prior to AAR, Mr. Schreiner spent 19 years at Boeing (McDonnell-Douglas) in various technical management positions. Mr. Schreiner received a BS from the University of Illinois and a MBA from Pepperdine University.
Kevin Fackrell, 51, became our Chief Risk Officer in March 2006. Prior to joining Aircastle, from May 2000 Mr. Fackrell was Chief Credit Officer and Head of Risk Management with Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise, based in Singapore. Prior to joining SALE Mr. Fackrell spent 27 years with NatWest Bank Group in the UK, as a Corporate Banking Executive in NatWest’s Aerospace team with particular responsibilities for clients in Asia and Australasia and for undertaking the sourcing, structuring, negotiating and closing of a full range of aircraft financing transactions; as Director, Credit Risk in NatWest’s Credit Risk department where he had responsibility for a portfolio of transportation related credits globally, and as Director of Risk, Corporate Finance at NatWest’s UK leasing subsidiary, Lombard.
Michael Platt, 46, became our Chief Investment Officer in February 2007. Prior to joining Aircastle, Mr. Platt was Senior Vice President of International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) in Los Angeles, California where his responsibilities included heading the sales department and leasing aircraft to airlines throughout the world. Prior to working in marketing and sales at ILFC, Mr. Platt was Vice President, Secretary and Corporate Legal Counsel at ILFC. Before joining ILFC, from 1987 to 1992 he was a transactional lawyer for the former McDonnell Douglas Finance Corporation in Long Beach, California where, among other responsibilities, he was involved in commercial aircraft leasing. Mr. Platt received his BA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1982 and his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1985.
Aaron Dahlke, 38, became our Chief Accounting Officer in June 2005. Prior to joining Aircastle, Mr. Dahlke was Vice President and Controller of Boullioun Aviation Services Inc. from January 2003. Prior to Boullioun, Mr. Dahlke was at ImageX.com, Inc. and Ernst & Young LLP. He received a B.S. in Accounting from California State University San Bernardino and is a CPA.
Our common shares are listed for trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ‘‘AYR’’. As of March 15, 2007, there were approximately 7,550 record holders of our common shares.
The following table sets forth the quarterly high and low prices of our common shares on the New York Stock Exchange for the periods indicated since our initial public offering and dividends during such periods:
We intend to continue to pay regular quarterly dividends to our shareholders; however, our ability to pay, maintain or expand cash dividends to our shareholders and to execute our dividend payment strategy is subject to the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on many factors, including our ability to make and finance acquisitions, our ability to negotiate favorable lease and other contractual terms, the level of demand for our aircraft, the economic condition of the commercial aviation industry generally, the financial condition and liquidity of our lessees, the lease rates we are able to charge and realize, our leasing costs, unexpected or increased expenses, the level and timing of capital expenditures, principal repayments and other capital needs, the value of our aircraft portfolio, our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity, general business conditions, restrictions imposed by our securitizations or other financing arrangements (including our credit facilities), legal restrictions on the payment of dividends and other factors that our board of directors deems relevant. Some of the factors are beyond our control and a change in any such factor could affect our ability to pay dividends on our common shares. In the future we may not be able to pay or maintain dividends. We also may not be able to maintain our current level of dividends or increase them over time. Increases in demand for our aircraft and operating lease payments may not occur, and may not increase our actual cash available for dividends to our common shareholders. The failure to maintain or pay dividends would adversely affect our share price.
Equity Compensation Plan Information
The table below sets forth certain information as of December 31, 2006, the last day of the fiscal year, for (i) all equity compensation plans previously approved by our shareholders and (ii) all equity compensation plans not previously approved by our shareholders.
Under the terms of our Omnibus Stock Incentive Plan, the number of shares available for future issuance will increase annually each January 1st by 100,000 shares; accordingly, the number of shares available for future issuance automatically increased by 100,000 shares on January 1, 2007.
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
The following is a summary of transactions by us involving sales of our securities that were not registered under the Securities Act during the last three years preceding the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Since our formation in October 2004, we have issued unregistered securities to a limited number of persons, as described below. None of these transactions involved any underwriters or any public offerings and we believe that each of these transactions was exempt from registration requirements pursuant to Section 4(2) of the Securities Act, Regulation D promulgated thereunder, Rule 144A of the Securities Act, or Rule 701 of the Securities Act pursuant to compensatory benefit plans and contracts related to compensation as provided under Rule 701. The recipients of the securities in these transactions represented their intention to acquire the securities for investment purposes only and not with a view to or for sale in connection with any distribution thereof, and appropriate legends were affixed to the share certificates and instruments issued in these transactions.
In connection with our initial capitalization, on November 19, 2004, we issued common shares in the following amounts to the following persons. The issuance of these securities was exempt from registration under Section 4(2) of the Securities Act as transactions by the issuer not involving a public offering. We determined that the purchasers of the securities in these transactions were either accredited or sophisticated investors and were provided access to all relevant information necessary to evaluate the investment.
Stock Option Grants and Grants of Restricted Shares
From time to time, we have issued restricted shares to our employees under our 2005 Equity and Incentive Compensation Plan. A portion of the grants of restricted shares set forth below was exempt from registration under Section 701 of the Securities Act because they were made under written compensatory plans or agreements and the remainder were exempt under Section 4(2) of the Securities Act.
Sale of Common Shares
On April 28, 2006, we issued 200,000 of our common shares to Peter V. Ueberroth and Virginia Ueberroth, as trustees of the Ueberroth Family Trust, for an aggregate offering price of $1,000,000. No underwriters were involved in this sale of securities. The securities described in this paragraph were issued to a U.S. investor in reliance upon the exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act, as set forth in Section 4(2) under the Securities Act and Rule 506 of Regulation D promulgated thereunder relating to sales by an issuer not involving any public offering, to the extent an exemption from such registration was required. The purchaser of our common shares described above represented to us in connection with their purchase that they were an accredited investor and were acquiring the shares for investment and not distribution, that they could bear the risks of the investment and could hold the securities for an indefinite period of time. The purchaser received
written disclosures that the securities had not been registered under the Securities Act and that any resale must be made pursuant to a registration or an available exemption from such registration. The sales of these securities were made without general solicitation or advertising.
The following graph compares the cumulative 4-month total return to shareholders on Aircastle Limited’s common shares relative to the cumulative total returns of the S & P 500 Index and a customized peer group of six companies that includes: Aercap Holdings NV (NYSE: AER), Copano Energy LLC (NASDAQ: CPNO), Energy Transfer Partners L.P. (NYSE: ETP), Genesis Lease Limited (NYSE: GLS), Seaspan Corp. (NYSE: SSW) and Teekay LNG Partners (NYSE: TGP) (the ‘‘AYR Peer Group’’). The AYR Peer Group investment is weighted among shares in the AYR Peer Group companies by market-capitalization as of August 7, 2006, and is adjusted monthly. An investment of $100 (with reinvestment of all dividends) is assumed to have been made in our common shares and in the AYR Peer Group on August 7, 2006, and is assumed to have been made in the S & P 500 Index on July 31, 2006 and the relative performance of each tracked through December 31, 2006.
The stock price performance included in this graph is not necessarily indicative of future stock price performance.
The following tables set forth our selected historical consolidated financial data as of December 31, 2004, 2005 and 2006, and for the period from our inception to December 31, 2004 and the years ended December 31, 2005 and 2006. We commenced operations in October 2004 and therefore the information presented for the year ended December 31, 2004 reflects our results of operations for the period from October 29, 2004 through December 31, 2004 only. You should read these tables along with ‘‘Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,’’ ‘‘Business’’ and our consolidated financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this report. Our historical consolidated statements of operations data and consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2004, 2005 and 2006, and for the period from our inception through December 31, 2004 and the years ended December 31, 2005 and 2006, have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements and are included elsewhere in this report.
This management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations contains forward-looking statements that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. You should read the following discussion in conjunction with our ‘‘Selected Financial Data’’ and our historical consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto appearing elsewhere in this report. The results of operations for the periods reflected herein are not necessarily indicative of results that may be expected for future periods, and our actual results may differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including but not limited to those described under ‘‘Risk Factors’’ and elsewhere in this report. Please see ‘‘Safe Harbor Statement Under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995’’ for a discussion of the uncertainties, risks and assumptions associated with these statements.
We are a global company that acquires and leases high-utility commercial jet aircraft to passenger and cargo airlines throughout the world. High-utility aircraft are generally modern, operationally efficient jets with a large operator base and long useful lives. As of December 31, 2006, our aircraft portfolio consisted of 69 aircraft that were leased to 32 lessees located in 23 countries and managed through our offices in the United States, Ireland and Singapore. All of our aircraft are subject to net operating leases whereby the lessee is generally responsible for maintaining the aircraft and paying operational and insurance costs although, in a majority of cases, we are obligated to pay a portion of specified maintenance or modification costs. We also make investments in other aviation assets, including debt securities secured by commercial jet aircraft. As of March 15, 2007, we had acquired and committed to acquire aviation assets having an aggregate purchase price equal to $2.23 billion and $1.44 billion, respectively, for a total of approximately $3.67 billion. Our revenues and income from continuing operations for the year ended December 31, 2006 were $189.3 million and $47.8 million, respectively, and for the fourth quarter 2006 are $61.2 million and $19.8 million, respectively.
We intend to pay regular quarterly dividends to our shareholders. We plan to grow our dividends per share through the acquisition of additional aviation assets using cash on hand and available credit facilities. We expect to finance our acquisitions on a long-term basis using low-cost, non-recourse securitizations. Securitizations allow us to raise long-term capital by pledging cash flows of an asset pool, such as aircraft leases. In June 2006, we closed our first securitization, a $560 million transaction comprising 40 aircraft, which we refer to as Securitization No. 1. On March 14, 2007, our board of directors declared a regular quarterly dividend of $0.50 per common share, or an aggregate of $33.6 million, for the three months ended March 31, 2007, payable on April 13, 2007 to holders of record on March 30, 2007. In addition, on January 15, 2007, we paid a regular quarterly dividend of $0.4375 per common share for the three months ended December 31, 2006, to shareholders of record as of December 29, 2006. These dividends may not be indicative of the amount of any future dividends.
We manage our business and analyze and report our results of operations on the basis of the following two business segments: Aircraft Leasing and Debt Investments. We present our segment information on a contribution margin basis consistent with the information that our Chief Executive Officer (the chief operating decision maker) reviews in assessing segment performance and allocating resources. Contribution margin includes revenue, depreciation, interest expense and other expenses that are directly connected to our business segments. We believe contribution margin is an appropriate measure of performance because it reflects the marginal profitability of our business segments excluding overhead.
All of our aircraft are currently subject to net operating leases whereby the lessee is generally responsible for maintaining the aircraft and paying operational and insurance costs. In many of our
leases we are obligated to bear a portion of maintenance costs or costs associated with modifications required by manufacturers or regulators. We retain the benefit, and bear the risk, of re-leasing and the residual value of the aircraft upon expiry or early termination of the lease. As of December 31, 2006, our portfolio consisted of 69 aircraft on-lease to 32 lessees in 23 countries with a net book value of $1.6 billion. The weighted average (by net book value) age of the aircraft in the portfolio from the date of delivery by manufacturer to December 31, 2006, was 8.9 years. The weighted average (by net book value) remaining lease term for aircraft we owned at December 31, 2006 was 4.2 years.
We also invest in debt securities secured by commercial jet aircraft, including enhanced equipment trust certificates, and other forms of collateralized debt. We believe our experience in the aircraft leasing business coupled with knowledge of structured finance, enables us to make opportunistic investments in this market sector. Our intent is not to actively trade debt investments, and accordingly we have classified debt investments purchased to date as available-for-sale as defined in Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 115, Accounting for Certain Investments in Debt and Equity Securities. As of December 31, 2005, we owned debt securities secured by aircraft with a fair value of $26.9 million. During the year ended December 31, 2006 we made two additional investments in debt securities secured by aviation assets. At December 31, 2006, our debt investment portfolio consisted of six such debt securities with a fair value of $121.3 million.
Revenues in our Aircraft Leasing segment are comprised of operating lease rentals on flight equipment held for lease. The amount of rent we receive depends on various factors, including the type, size and age of the aircraft in our portfolio. Lease rental revenue is recognized on a straight-line basis over the term of the lease. Our aircraft lease agreements generally provide for the periodic payment of a fixed amount of rent over the life of the lease. However, the amount of rent we receive may vary due to several factors, including the credit worthiness of our lessees and the occurrence of delinquencies and defaults. Our lease rental revenues are also affected by the extent to which aircraft are off-lease and our ability to remarket aircraft that are nearing the end of their leases in order to minimize their off-lease time. Our success in re-leasing aircraft is affected by market conditions relating to our aircraft and by general industry trends. An increase in the percentage of off-lease aircraft or a reduction in lease rates upon remarketing would negatively impact our revenues.
Revenues in our Aircraft Leasing segment for the year ended December 31, 2005 were $33.0 million as compared to $180.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2006. Our revenues increased significantly from 2005 to 2006 as a result of aircraft acquisitions in 2006 which caused our aircraft fleet to grow from 32 aircraft at December 31, 2005 to 69 aircraft at December 31, 2006, all of which were on-lease.
Revenues in our Debt Investments segment are recognized using the effective interest method. Certain investments which represent residual interests are accounted for using a level yield methodology based upon a number of cash flow assumptions that are subject to uncertainties and contingencies. Such assumptions include the rate and timing of principal and interest. Revenues in our Debt Investments segment for the year ended December 31, 2005 were $3.0 million as compared to $9.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2006.
Operating expenses are comprised of depreciation of flight equipment held for lease, interest expense, selling, general and administrative expenses, or SG&A, and other expenses. As we continue to grow, we expect that depreciation of flight equipment held for lease and interest expense will grow proportionately with revenue growth. We also expect that SG&A will decline as a percentage of revenues as we leverage our existing infrastructure over a greater revenue base.
Since our operating lease terms generally require the lessee to pay for operating, maintenance and insurance costs, our portion of other expenses relating to aircraft reflected in our statement of operations has been nominal.
Income Tax Provision
We have obtained an assurance from the Minister of Finance of Bermuda under the Exempted Undertakings Tax Protection Act 1966 that, in the event that any legislation is enacted in Bermuda imposing any tax computed on profits or income, or computed on any capital asset, gain or appreciation or any tax in the nature of estate duty or inheritance tax, such tax shall not, until March 28, 2016, be applicable to us or to any of our operations or to our shares, debentures or other obligations except insofar as such tax applies to persons ordinarily resident in Bermuda or to any taxes payable by us in respect of real property owned or leased by us in Bermuda.
All of our aircraft-owning subsidiaries are foreign corporations that, depending upon the flight activities of the leased aircraft, generally earn income from sources outside the United States and therefore are exempt from U.S. federal, state and local income taxes. We have a U.S. based subsidiary which provides management services to our non-U.S. subsidiaries and is subject to U.S. federal, state and local income taxes.
We were formed in October 2004 with a capital commitment of $400 million from funds managed by Fortress for the purpose of investing in aviation assets. This commitment was fully contributed by the end of 2005.
We are incorporated under Bermuda law and have obtained an assurance from the Minister of Finance of Bermuda under the Exempted Undertakings Tax Protection Act 1966 that, in the event that any legislation is enacted in Bermuda imposing any tax computed on profits or income, or computed on any capital asset, gain or appreciation or any tax in the nature of estate duty or inheritance tax, such tax shall not, until March 28, 2016, be applicable to us or to any of our operations or to our shares, debentures or other obligations except insofar as such tax applies to persons ordinarily resident in Bermuda or is payable by us in respect of real property owned or leased by us in Bermuda. All of our aircraft-owning subsidiaries are non-U.S. corporations that, depending upon the flight activities of the leased aircraft, generally earn income from sources outside the United States that are not subject to U.S. federal income tax. Income earned by our non-U.S. subsidiaries that is attributable to leased aircraft used for flights to or from places within the United States may be subject to U.S. federal income tax. In addition, certain of our non-U.S. subsidiaries may be subject to state and local income taxes on a portion of their income as a result of aircraft used for flights to or from particular states or localities. We own our debt securities in a Bermuda corporation. Earnings of this corporation are not subject to U.S. federal income tax because we qualify for the portfolio interest exception. We have a U.S. based subsidiary which provides management services to our non-U.S. subsidiaries and is subject to U.S. federal, state and local income taxes.
Acquisitions and Dispositions
Our financial results are impacted by the timing and size of acquisitions and dispositions we complete. As of March 15, 2007 we had acquired and committed to acquire aviation assets having an aggregate purchase price equal to $2.23 billion and $1.44 billion, respectively, or a total of approximately $3.67 billion. To date, we have sold one aircraft and one debt security.
We believe the large and growing aircraft market continues to evolve, generating significant additional acquisition opportunities. Our acquisition strategy is flexible and allows us to take advantage of the best available market opportunities. Currently, we are primarily focused on acquiring high-utility commercial jet aircraft and we may also make opportunistic acquisitions of other asset-backed aviation assets. Our business strategy has been to pursue acquisitions through multiple channels across the world, such as sale-leasebacks with airlines and purchases from operating lessors, banks and other aircraft owning entities. We also explore opportunities to purchase aircraft from manufacturers from time to time. Our ability to successfully and efficiently acquire and integrate additional aviation assets on favorable terms will significantly impact our financial results and growth prospects.
On January 22, 2007, Aircastle entered into the Acquisition Agreement with GAIF under which we agreed to acquire 38 aircraft for an aggregate base purchase price of approximately $1.595 billion, subject to certain agreed adjustments. The aircraft we will acquire under the Acquisition Agreement are scheduled to be delivered to us through February 2009. As of March 15, 2007, we completed the acquisition of five of these aircraft.
Four of the aircraft are Boeing Model 747-400ERF freighter aircraft. Our purchase of each of the new freighters would close on its delivery date from the manufacturer; however, subject to satisfaction of certain conditions, we have agreed to make an accelerated payment to the relevant seller and acquire its rights and obligations under the manufacturer’s purchase agreement for the new freighters. Signed leases are in place for all of the new freighters, with delivery under each lease scheduled to be made upon completion of the manufacturing process for the relevant new freighter.
Seven of the aircraft are Boeing Model 747-400 aircraft which have been, or will be converted into freighter aircraft. One of the converted freighters completed its passenger-to-cargo conversion process in November 2006 and was delivered to a lessee; the remaining converted freighters are scheduled to complete the conversion process through June 2008. Our purchase of each of the converted freighters would close on the date it completes the conversion process; however, subject to satisfaction of certain conditions, we have agreed to make an accelerated payment to the relevant seller and acquire the converted freighters, and the rights and obligations of the relevant seller under the passenger-to-freighter conversion contract, prior to completion of the conversion process. Signed leases are in place for all of the converted freighters, with delivery under each lease having been made, or being scheduled to be made, upon completion of the conversion process for the relevant converted freighter.
Six of the aircraft are Airbus Model A320-200 aircraft, which are under contract for purchase from an airline during the period through February 2009. Our purchase of the Airbus Model A320-200 aircraft would close upon delivery from the airline to the relevant seller; however, subject to satisfaction of certain conditions, we have agreed to make an accelerated payment to the relevant seller and acquire the rights and obligations of the relevant seller under its contract with the airline seller. Currently there are no leases signed for the Airbus Model A320-200 aircraft.
The purchase of each of the remaining 21 aircraft under the Acquisition Agreement will close upon satisfaction of agreed conditions precedent, with scheduled closing dates ranging through May 2007. Five of the remaining 21 aircraft are passenger-configured Boeing Model 757-200 aircraft, currently on lease to two lessees. Upon our purchase of these aircraft we expect to succeed to the rights and obligations of the relevant seller under a sale agreement with a third party, under which we would sell the aircraft upon expiry of the existing leases, which are currently scheduled to expire on dates between June 2008 and October 2011.
The weighted average age of the aircraft is 8.65 years. The weighted average remaining lease term for the aircraft, excluding the aircraft not currently subject to lease, is 8.32 years. The top five lessees of the aircraft are Martinair, Emirates, Volga-Dnepr, KLM and Cargo 360, all of which are leasing freighter aircraft, and the aircraft operated or to be operated by these five lessees represent approximately 64% of the aggregate purchase price for the aircraft.
Our purchase of the aircraft is generally on an ‘‘as-is, where-is’’ basis, in some cases subject to a pre-delivery inspection and to such aircraft being in an expected delivery condition. If an aircraft suffers a total loss or significant damage prior to our purchase, or if delivery of an aircraft is delayed beyond an agreed deadline, then we may terminate our obligation to purchase that aircraft (without affecting our rights and obligations in relation to the other aircraft). If we have made an accelerated payment with respect to an aircraft, then upon any such termination affecting that aircraft any accelerated payment we have made with respect to that aircraft must be returned to us with interest at 6% per annum from the date the accelerated payment was made.
The Company will guarantee the obligations of its affiliates under the Acquisition Agreement. In order to secure the obligations of our affiliates, we will post a letter of credit. If we were to default on our obligation to purchase an aircraft when all conditions to closing had been met by the relevant
seller, then following notice and an opportunity to cure such default the sellers would have the right to terminate the Acquisition Agreement as a whole and draw down the then-current stated amount of the letter of credit, and retain the proceeds as liquidated damages for our failure to perform.
The obligations of the sellers will be guaranteed by GAIF. If any seller were to knowingly default in any material respect on a material obligation, then following notice and an opportunity to cure such default, we would have the right to terminate the Acquisition Agreement and seek damages, subject to agreed limitations. If we make any accelerated payments for any aircraft, the obligations of the seller to return such accelerated payments following a termination of the Acquisition Agreement with respect to the relevant aircraft will be secured by a letter of credit.
We and the sellers have rights of indemnification against one another for losses suffered as a consequence of a breach of the Acquisition Agreement or for operational risks relating to the aircraft during agreed time periods, subject to customary limitations.
Closing of the transactions contemplated by the Acquisition Agreement is subject to certain customary closing conditions for transactions of this type. There can be no assurance that these conditions will be satisfied or that we will complete the acquisition of all the aircraft contemplated by the Acquisition Agreement. See ‘‘Risk Factors — Failure to close the Aircraft Acquisition could negatively impact our stock price and financial results.’’
Of the total base purchase price for the 38 aircraft of approximately $1.595 billion, 28 aircraft with an aggregate base purchase price of approximately $1.040 billion are scheduled to be acquired in 2007, of which we have acquired five aircraft with an aggregate purchase price of approximately $258.8 million. The remaining ten aircraft have an aggregate purchase price of $554.5 million, nine of which we expect will be delivered in 2008 and one we expect will be delivered in 2009. Of the 38 aircraft that are to be acquired, 29 are to be acquired subject to lease and nine are to be acquired not subject to lease. The 29 aircraft subject to lease have an aggregate base purchase price of approximately $1.467 billion, contractual monthly rents totaling approximately $14.0 million and a weighted average remaining lease term of 8.32 years. The nine aircraft that are not subject to lease have an aggregate base purchase price of approximately $127.5 million, of which we have acquired three aircraft and have letters of intent to lease all these aircraft.
The aircraft to be acquired include 26 passenger aircraft with a weighted average age of 11.3 years and a total base purchase price of $500.5 million and 12 freighters with a weighted average age of 7.4 years and a total base purchase price of $1.094 billion. For accounting purposes, we calculate aircraft depreciation expense based on the estimated useful life of each aircraft and the estimated residual value of each aircraft at the end of its useful life. Generally, we estimate that passenger aircraft have a useful life of 25 years and freighters have a useful life of between 30 and 35 years from the date of manufacture. We estimate that the residual value of our passenger aircraft is 15% of the manufacturer’s original sales price when new and the residual value of freighters ranges between 10% and 15% of the manufacturer’s original sales price when new, or, in the case of converted freighters, of our purchase price.
We initially expect to pay for substantially all of the purchase price of the aircraft using debt financing available on our Revolving Credit Facility and Amended Credit Facility No. 2 or other borrowings that may be available to us at the time of acquisition. See ‘‘Liquidity and Capital Resources — Credit Facilities.’’ We expect to fund our aircraft on a long-term basis by securitizing their future cash flows using a structure similar to Securitization No. 1. Therefore, we expect to incur additional interest expense as a result of the Aircraft Acquisition.
The following table sets forth certain information with respect to the aircraft acquired or to be acquired by us, including the aircraft to be acquired pursuant to the Acquisition Agreement.
AIRCASTLE AIRCRAFT INFORMATION ($ in thousands)