Chinese Investors to Buy Up To 90 Percent of ILFC

 - December 10, 2012, 11:23 AM
ILFC became the first customer for the Airbus A321neo in early 2011. (Photo: Airbus)

American International Group has agreed to sell up to a 90-percent stake in International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) to a group of Chinese investors led by Weng Xianding, the chairman of New China Trust Company, AIG announced today.

The investor group, consisting of New China Trust, China Aviation Industrial Fund and P3 Investments Ltd., has agreed to pay some $4.23 billion for 80.1 percent of ILFC, and take an option to acquire an additional 9.9-percent stake. AIG expects other partners—New China Life Insurance Company and an investment arm of ICBC International—to join the investment group upon receipt of Chinese regulatory approvals. AIG plans to retain at least a 10-percent stake in ILFC.

“This transaction creates a solid and strategic partnership for ILFC,” said Robert H. Benmosche, president and CEO of AIG. “While ILFC is an extremely strong business platform and AIG will retain a minority stake as a passive investor, the aircraft leasing business is not core to our insurance operations. Upon completion, the transaction will have a positive impact on AIG’s liquidity and credit profile and will enable us to continue to focus on our core insurance businesses.”

AIG said that ILFC will retain operational independence and maintain its headquarters in Los Angeles. Plans call for ILFC chief executive Henri Courpron and president Frederick Cromer to continue to operate and manage the business. Meanwhile, ILFC will remain incorporated in the U.S. and maintain its registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Upon closing, ILFC would get a new board of directors led by independent U.S. and European aerospace and financial industry experts, including AIG’s Benmosche. Representatives of the investment group would form a minority of the board.

ILFC’s global customer base covers 200 airlines in 80 countries and its portfolio consists of more than 1,000 owned or managed aircraft. It also holds commitments to buy 229 new aircraft and purchase rights on another 50.

AIG’s plans as late as last year called for an IPO involving ILFC and the insurance company went as far as to file a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. At the time AIG had said it planned to sell more than 20 percent of its stake in the company and dispose of at least 80 percent of its interest within three years of the offering. In August last year Benmosche placed the value of the business at some $8 billion, a figure he opined no one could afford. The transaction with the Chinese interests valued the company at $5.28 billion.

Suitors for the company included its founder and former chairman and CEO Steven Udvar Hazy, who this past spring became the subject of a trade-secrets lawsuit filed by AIG. The lawsuit names Hazy and his new company, Air Lease Corp., and several Air Lease executives at one time employed by ILFC as defendants against 13 separate complaints, including misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of loyalty.