Sky's the limit for DAE's aircraft leasing ambitions

Dubai-based firm now the tenth largest in the world

Etihad and Natixis agreed a sale and leaseback of Airbus aircraft using special regulations introduced by Abu Dhabi Global Market. Courtesy Mubadala
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It’s always nice when the size of your business trebles overnight. That’s the feat that Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) has just achieved, demonstrating once again that the aviation ambitions of Dubai and the UAE remain undimmed.

The Dubai government-owned aircraft leasing firm yesterday finalized the acquisition of Dublin-based rival AWAS, expanding its fleet to around 400 aircraft worth over US$14 billion, and increasing its customer base to 116 airlines spread across 57 countries.

DAE, already the Middle East’s largest aircraft leasing company has now entered the global top ten, making it a competitor to the likes of GE Capital Aviation Services, SMBC Aviation Capital and ICBC Leasing.


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The AWAS deal gives DAE a foothold in Ireland, the aircraft leasing capital of the world. But its new expanded fleet also positions the company as the leasing market shows signs of moving eastward away from the emerald isle, whose status is under threat following Brexit. The UAE, as a significant aerospace hub, may well be best placed to take advantage, fending off competition from other would be alternative centres like Hong Kong and Singapore.

UAE-based aircraft leasing activity is not confined to Dubai. Abu Dhabi Global Market last year introduced regulations enabling simpler aviation financing, regulations used by Etihad and Natixis for a sale and leaseback of two Airbus aircraft in January of this year.

For its part, DAE has certainly been positioning itself for expansion, even before the initial announcement of the AWAS deal in April. In March the company completed the purchase of a portfolio of ATR 72-600 aircraft from GE Capital Aviation Services, making it one of the largest lessors of the aircraft worldwide.

In May it signed long-term lease agreements for 10 of the aircraft with Alliance Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India. The company said in June it was looking at buying more than 20 more aircraft after the AWAS deal closed.

DAE still has a long way to go to match the size of industry leaders like GE Capital Aviation Services and Aercap, who both have more than double DAE’s number of aircraft. But for DAE, and the UAE in general, the sky still remains the limit.