Falko, the company formed with the backing of New York-based Fortress Investment Group to acquire BAE Systems’ regional aircraft portfolio, plans to pursue a strategy whereby it will purchase regional aircraft for leasing to its customers–a complete about-face to BAE’s approach, which centered on managed disposal of a once-vast fleet numbering more than 500 aircraft.
In a briefing in London on August 4, Falko CEO Jeremy Barnes, who led what effectively amounted to a management buy-in by former BAE executives, told AIN that Falko would focus on regional aircraft leasing and not go near what he called the “crazy” world of mainstream narrowbodies dominated by Airbus and Boeing, where he sees some irrational buying behavior at present.
Barnes said Falko carries a portfolio of 143 aircraft worth some $300 million to $400 million, the majority of which consist of 89 Avro RJ four-engine regional jets. “The portfolio yield averages around 20 percent, which compares favorably with that of most aircraft leasing companies,” he told reporters. Its customer base now consists of 14 lessees in 11 countries.
“The initial focus for Falko is to maximize cash flow proceeds from the current portfolio [but] as an investment-led company…we plan to invest in selective acquisitions of both used and, eventually, new aircraft,” said Barnes, who added that Falko is “working hard on a number of possibilities already. It’s going to be an exciting ride.”
Barnes stressed that Fortress does not act as an asset-stripper, and that it acquires companies with a view to building long-term value. Mark Hughes, executive treasury v-p for Falko, revealed that a team of approximately 80 participated in the due diligence process and that, following the closure of the deal on July 15, further frenetic activity had started–not least to replace the various support functions that the main BAE Systems company provided to its Regional Aircraft Asset Management arm.
Fortress already owned an aircraft leasing business following its acquisition of Aircastle in 2005, but Falko will remain completely separate–although Aircastle did assist with the Falko due diligence. Aircastle carries a portfolio of 134 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, operated by 63 lessees in 34 countries.
Other well known executives from the BAE team have transferred to Falko, including Paul Stirling, who heads asset management; Steve Doughty, who serves as v-p of sales and marketing; and market analysis expert Rob Morris.