AIG unit pursuing African aircraft leasing deals


American International Group’s aircraft leasing unit ILFC is negotiating with several national and commercial airlines to try and double its footprint in Africa by 2015, said an executive.

Air travel is flourishing across Africa, where rapidly improving economies are helping the industry emerge from the global downturn.
“We would love to double our exposure in Africa from, I think it’s 20 aircraft at the moment, in the next five years,” Ozzie Chraibi, vice president at International Lease Finance Corporation told Reuters on the sidelines of an African aviation conference.

The Los Angeles-based corporation, with a portfolio of more than 1,000 aircraft, currently leases Boeing and Airbus passenger aircraft in about eight African countries, including to the national airline of Africa’s biggest economy, South African Airways.

Chraibi said ILFC typically leased aircraft for five to eight years in the world’s poorest region and was focusing on growing this business, Reuters reports.

According to the International Air Transport Association, global air travel rebounded in May, with African carriers reporting an increase in demand of 16.9 percent.
“We are following the market and are actively pursuing many airlines in Africa; definitely Nigeria is one of the countries we are considering,” Chraibi said. He did not want to provide details of which carriers ILFC was negotiating with for competitive reasons.

Domestic airlines in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and sub-Saharan Africa’s second-biggest economy, have undergone rapid expansion in recent years, with new carriers such as Arik Air and Dana Air competing with older firms such as Aero Contractors and IRS Airlines.
“We feel there is great potential here in Africa, and we want to grow our presence here,” said Chraibi.