Australia's Macquarie Group has agreed to buy 53 aircraft from International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) for $1.99 billion.

Subsidiary Macquarie Bank will buy 47 of the 53 aircraft for $1.67 billion, funding it through existing cash reserves. Macquarie Bank will also transfer to Macquarie AirFinance, an aircraft leasing company in which Macquarie has a 37.5% stake, its right to purchase six of the 53 aircraft directly from ILFC on similar terms.

The transaction will be completed over the remaining months of 2010, says Macquarie.

It adds that the 47 aircraft have an average age of less than four years, and are on lease to 35 airlines in 27 countries for an average remaining term of more than five years. Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 family aircraft make up more than 70% of the portfolio, and the rest are in-production widebodies.

"The acquisition builds on Macquarie's existing leasing business in the aircraft sector and Macquarie's substantial experience in the leasing of assets," says the company.

Macquarie's CFO Greg Ward adds: "This transaction leverages Macquarie's existing expertise in asset leasing, demonstrates the strength of our aircraft management capabilities and diversifies the client base of our aircraft fleet."

The Macquarie aircraft leasing business include subsidiary Macquarie Asset Leasing Trust, which was established in 2005 and owns nine aircraft on lease to a major Australian airline. Macquarie AirFinance owns or manages 124 aircraft leased to 57 operators in 30 countries.

Over the last two months, ILFC has completed a series of financial transactions that yielded $4 billion to help it pay down debt.

The sale will reduce the average age of the remaining fleet to 7.6 years from 7.4 years. The aggregate net book value of its aircraft portfolio, at 13 April, is $2.3 billion, says ILFC.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news