Airlines carried 3.8bn passengers last year, a number that industry analysts predict will soar to 7.8bn by 2036. To meet demand, carriers are replacing their ageing fleets, a trend that the south Wales aircraft spares specialist AerFin has capitalised on. Founded in 2010 by the industry veteran Bob James, 53, the business helps airlines safely decommission aircraft and find replacement engines and components.
With a small used engine costing as much as £1.5m and many individual parts worth more than complete planes when recycled, the company often buys entire aircraft, which is a capital-intensive undertaking. To support these investments, in 2014 AerFin sold an 80% stake to the American fund manager CarVal Investors. The deal also allowed it to diversify into airframes – the fuselages, wings and undercarriages of aircraft – in 2015 with the acquisition of a Gatwick components specialist.
AerFin has spent more than £100m on aircraft, engines and spares, which it recycles and sells or leases, driving turnover to £60.9m in 2016. It focuses on Embraer, Airbus and Boeing jets, and engines from manufacturers such as GE and Rolls-Royce, stocking 140,000 spare parts worldwide. Its 90 employees and apprentices deal with customers such as Lufthansa and British Airways.
Exports to 60 countries accounted for 85% of turnover last year, and the company predicts further growth in Asia, which is expected to contribute half of all new air passengers over the next 20 years. AerFin opened an office and warehouse distribution centre in Singapore last year to supply customers in the region, including Singapore Airlines and Philippine Airlines.
In May the company agreed its largest deal to date, acquiring 15 Embraer E170-LR aircraft from Saudi Arabian Airlines, of which more than half will be refurbished.
James says the firm is aiming to increase revenue by offering airlines cost-per-flight-hour agreements to cut operating costs. He has won a seven-year contract to provide component support for 20 British Airways jets as part of this plan, which promises to help AerFin climb to new heights.
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