ASESA locks US Ex-Im financing for S-76D order

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Export credit agency, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im), has approved a more than $50 million loan guarantee to support an order from Mexico's Aeroservicios Especializados (ASESA) for six Sikorsky S-76D helicopters.

The deal is the first under the export credit agency's new qualified advisor programme, which is designed to expand support for the sale of business aviation aircraft manufactured in the USA to international customers.

AirFinance Leasing was ASESA's advisor for the transaction and arranged the loan. Apple Bank is the lender.

"The qualified advisor programme is a great example of the public-private partnership so frequently held up as a model for how government can partner with the private sector," says Kirsten Bartok, managing partner of AirFinance.

The order is the first from Mexico for the delayed S-76D, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database. The airframer has a backlog for 52 of the medium-twin, with a further 10 aircraft on option.

ASESA is scheduled to take delivery of the helicopters from the second quarter of 2013, according to a statement. It will use the aircraft to support offshore platforms operated by Mexican oil and gas conglomerate Pemex.

"This important event will mark the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between ASESA and Ex-Im bank for the coming years," says Humberto Lobo, chief executive of ASESA parent Grupo Lomex. The company has a fleet of 22 helicopters, with the majority provided by Bell.

Ex-Im launched the qualified advisor programme at the European business aviation show, Ebace, in May to address the limited availability of commercial bank loans for foreign business aircraft buyers. The programme is available for any business aircraft manufactured in the USA, including those made by foreign airframers at US manufacturing facilities, for example, aircraft built by Embraer at its Melbourne, Florida, plant.

Bombardier and Embraer receive similar financing support for business aircraft deliveries from their respective export credit agencies in Canada and Brazil.

"By leveraging private-sector expertise to assist and support our evaluation of these credits, we will be able to expand Ex-Im Bank's support for US business aircraft exports and the manufacturing jobs that they sustain," said Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of the bank, in May. The programme could provide up to $1 billion to support business aviation aircraft sales through 2017, he said.

Bartok says that AirFinance expects the programme to provide about $200 million in credit support each year during the period.

Buyers enter the programme when an airframer refers them to a qualified advisor who then reviews the credit and provides them with a tentative term sheet, says Bartok. If the buyer agrees to the terms, the deal proceeds to Ex-Im and the credit approval process.

"All OEMs with manufacturing operations in the USA are very aware of the programme and are already sending potential borrowers," she says.

Ex-Im provided a $75.7 million loan guarantee to support financing of three Sikorsky S-92s for Brazilian operator Lider Aviação in June.