Earlier this year, Waypoint Leasing opened a new office in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, expanding the helicopter leasing company’s support not only for the challenging Brazil oil-and-gas market but also for all of Latin America, according to Steffen Bay, vice president of marketing and sales. “We have a significant business in Brazil,” he told AIN. “We believe in the long term. It’ll balance out eventually, and we need to be close to customers in these tough times. It doesn’t make sense to put our head in the sand.”
Waypoint also announced the opening of new offices in Brisbane, Australia, and Cape Town, South Africa. The Brisbane office, with five aircraft, is headed by Chris Wakefield and will open in April. Con Barber will run the Cape Town office, which launches in the second quarter this year and oversees 12 aircraft based in Africa.
Yesterday Waypoint announced a sale and leaseback agreement for three AW139s with Bristow Group. The AW139s will be based in Guyana.
In a recent deal, Waypoint signed a purchase and leaseback agreement with Brazil's Omni Helicopters covering four Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopters. The agreement is with Omni Helicopters International, a strategic partnership between Stirling Square Capital Partners and Omni Group. The aircraft are operating for Omni Taxi Aereo, Brazil’s largest helicopter service operator to the offshore industry by fleet size.
Waypoint has also positioned itself to serve other markets in addition to oil-and-gas, including EMS and parapublic operators. Last year at the Helitech show, Waypoint announced orders and commitments for up to 38 new helicopters, including up to 20 Airbus H135s and firming an earlier contract for 18 Finmeccanica AW189s, AW169s and AW139s. Waypoint’s firm and option orders now stand at more than 125 helicopters valued at over $1.7 billion, and these are scheduled to be delivered during the next five years.
Waypoint now has more than 10 helicopters on lease to EMS operators. “The EMS market has always been a significant segment of the helicopter market,” said CEO Ed Washecka, “and an area of focus since our inception in 2013. EMS is a very different business and market than oil and gas. Waypoint’s team is uniquely qualified in this area, with a tremendous amount of experience from program oversight of light-twin engine aircraft to full-scale management of EMS businesses.”
Waypoint’s fleet numbers more than 120 helicopters worth $1.5 billion spread around the world. The company, headquartered in Limerick, Ireland, also has offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Here at Heli-Expo, Waypoint (Booth 10751) executives plan to meet with customers and potential clients and hold a customer-appreciation event. This year is Waypoint’s third Heli-Expo show.
“Thanks to our experience and expertise in weathering the cycles of the helicopter market, Waypoint Leasing is healthy and open for business,” said Washecka. “There is no doubt that 2015 was a difficult year for the entire energy industry, and a challenging time for many of our customers. While we expect further headwinds through 2016, we are optimistic that as operators make capital allocation decisions, they will increasingly rely on leasing solutions, which enhance operational and financial flexibility.”
Waypoint’s financial backing includes $450 million in equity capital and more than $1.5 billion in debt capacity from more than 25 lenders. The three major long-term investors behind Waypoint are MSD Capital, Quantum Strategic Partners and Cartesian Capital Group.
“We are entrepreneurs who approach helicopter leasing from the perspective of the operator and the end-user,” said Washecka. “As operators, the Waypoint team has personally leased and operated helicopters in dozens of countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America. So we truly understand what our helicopter clients are going through. This why we craft our leasing solutions to truly address not just their needs, but the cyclical realities of the helicopter industry.”
For helicopter operators, leasing remains an attractive option, especially in these fragile economic times, according to Bay. “We offer flexibility, and it enhances their fleet planning. If they’re not sure about extending a contract or if they want a new model, they might just lease it before they buy and see how it performs. Leasing is an additional tool for them, especially in countries with high interest rates. They would rather do business with us than a local bank, and it makes leasing with us attractive.”
Waypoint works with operators of all sizes, according to Bay. “Bigger transactions are easier, but it doesn’t matter if it’s two or three or 100 helicopters.” Although the oil-and-gas market “is still a dominant part of the industry,” he added, Waypoint is also focusing on EMS, firefighting, mining and even the windfarming segments. But oil prices and the state of the economy will affect helicopter operators. “We think there will be organic growth and some consolidation,” he said. “The market space is too much for the current players. There will be consolidation this year.”