Hong Kong-based business aviation services provider Metrojet aims to expand into mainland China in an effort to harness the huge demand for business aircraft within the vast country.
"We are looking at various locations and partnerships, but we don't have a time-frame for the new venture," said Metrojet chief executive Bjorn Naf. "We will establish a base on the mainland with a credible, like-minded partner who wants to help us build a solid, sustainable future there."
Naf conceded the process of forming a venture in China can be very costly and bureaucratic. Furthermore, "a lot of liberalisation to the [country's airspace and infrastructure] is needed to support the expected fleet growth and get the full potential out of business aviation".
Despite these hurdles, the business potential within China is massive, Naf said. "Business aircraft manufacturers are predicting deliveries of hundreds of aircraft to mainland China over the coming years, and are looking for established companies like Metrojet to support their fleets here. We cannot do this from Hong Kong [due to space and regulatory restrictions]."
Metrojet has no plans to grow aggressively, Naf stressed. "We will take it step by step. We may begin as a maintenance provider and when we have generated enough cash flow we can expand into other areas such as aircraft management."
The business aviation market in the more mature Hong Kong market is also booming. "In the last five years, the fleet of Hong Kong-registered business aircraft has grown from 20 to 50 aircraft and another ten [non-Hong Kong registered] types are based here," said Naf.
To cater for the “Hong Kong overspill”, the 15-year-old company plans to open a maintenance facility in the Philippines at the end of March at Clark air base, north of Manila - formerly used by the US air force. “The cost of labour is much cheaper in the Philippines [than in other parts of Asia, especially Hong Kong], so is fuel, parking and hangarage. We will be able to offer all these services to business aircraft owners and operators throughout the region,” said Naf.