Confab/Expo October 2011

Japan’s First Aviation Finance Forum

Traffic, technology, money and manufacturing make Tokyo an ideal spot for UK industry-data firm’s new office

As its name suggests, Ascend is on the up.

The London-based provider of data, analysis and advisory services to investors in the aerospace sector recently opened an office in Tokyo and hosted Japan’s inaugural aviation finance conference over two days in late September.

With an aviation market worth an estimated $62.5bn and some 766 commercial passenger and freighter aircraft owned in Japan, Tokyo was the ideal place to hold the conference, according to Eddy Pieniazek, head of consultancy for Ascend. And it helped that the delivery of the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner for launch customer All Nippon Airways coincided neatly with the first day of the event.

“The Japanese market is certainly very important both in terms of airline traffic and aircraft finance, as well as aerospace manufacturing”, said Pieniazek. “Japan is at the forefront of new technologies, making large parts of the 787, and with Mitsubishi designing the first next-generation regional jet, the MRJ.

“Ascend’s Aviation Finance Forum occurs at an interesting time for the aviation market”, he said. “Market values and lease rates for the popular types are now showing welcome signs of improvement. Passenger traffic growth is, however, showing signs of slowing, while freight traffic is flat.

“There are certainly short-term uncertainties in the global economy, with debt problems in the Eurozone and a fragile US economy”, he added, pointing out that airlines are reviewing their capacity growth plans for this year and next.

“So much is going on right now with the re-emergence of Japan Airlines, the rise of low cost carriers, and the highly anticipated next generation of Mitsubishi Regional Jets”, said Pieniazek. “Ascend has been consulting with many of the major players in Japan over many years, and we now have a dedicated team based in Tokyo. We are delighted to be able to host a conference as important as this in our new base”.

The conference took a broad look at Japan’s aviation finance, where the aircraft that are operational have a total value of about $23bn. But, when the value of aircraft on order, corporate jets, bank finance and manufacturing are factored into the equation, aviation finance is worth an estimated $62.5bn.

Speakers at the conference examined the health of aviation finance, how deals will continue to be done in an increasingly challenging business environment, the relative importance of export credit, the outlook for equity and debt, and the increasing importance of the role of lessons in underpinning growth.

Speakers at the event included Vincent Hodder, executive manager for strategy for Australia’s Jetstar Airways; Johnny Lau, CFO of Spring Airlines; and Shinichi Nishikubo, president and CEO of Japan-based Skymark Airlines.

Other speakers included Junichi Miyakawa, executive vice-president of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp.; Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of rapidly expanding AirAsia X; and Jim Mueller, vice-president for the Asia-Pacific region for United Airlines.

Founded more than 40 years ago, Ascend has grown into the world’s leading provider of specialist information and consultancy services to the global air transport industry. With offices in London (close to Heathrow Airport), New York and Hong Kong, as well as its newest regional office in Tokyo, Ascend supplies current and historical fleet data on more than 116,000 aircraft and valuation data for some 91,000 aircraft and engines. That information—which covers everything from turboprops to commercial aircraft and business jets—is used by firms looking to lease aircraft.

Given the success of the inaugural event, with more than 100 members of the industry attending, Pieniazek said he hopes the forum will “become a fixture on the global aviation finance calendar”.