Jury Still Out on Effect of Credit Crunch on Aircraft OEMs

 - January 30, 2009, 6:00 AM

It seemed unlikely that tightening credit wouldn’t trigger more order cancellations or delivery deferrals among the world’s airlines, so even though the top manufacturers seem to have escaped the early stages of the crisis relatively unscathed, many predict a pronounced drop in financial support by the second half of this year.

Stuart Hatcher, an analyst for UK consultancy International Bureau of Aviation, told AIN that while certain banks have decided to exit aviation altogether, some of the industry’s most reliable sources of funding will simply suspend their activities until conditions change. But as even the best capitalized banks hesitate to commit to deliveries in the second half of the year, the big manufacturers say they can maintain production rates with the help of in-house financing and export credit agency/ExIm bank support. 

“Airbus is going to rate 36 next I think for the A320, which means they’re trying to deliver 435 A320s this year, and you think, A, ‘who’s going to take them all?’” said Hatcher. “[Airbus will] say we’re pretty confident that we’ve actually got most of 2009 covered, but… these [customers] are the guys I wouldn’t call absolutely top tier.”

Boeing Capital, in fact, projects it will need to finance some $1 billion worth of deliveries this year after spending years winding down its exposure from $12 billion to $6 billion by the end of last year. Although Boeing president and CEO James McNerney said he expects an increase in deferrals this year, the company doesn’t plan to slow production thanks to “significant” overbooking and a large, mobile order backlog. Boeing plans to deliver between 480 and 485 airplanes this year.

Hatcher expressed a keen interest in what develops over the first months of this year, however, as very few deliveries scheduled for 2010 have secured financing commitments. “If the status quo remains there’s going to be some real problems,” he warned.