Hong Kong, 25 June 2021 - China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings Limited ("CALC" or the “Company”, HKSE stock code: 01848; together with subsidiaries, the “Group”), a full value chain aircraft solutions provider for the global aviation industry, is pleased to announce that it has received a corporate family rating (CFR) of Ba1 and a foreign currency and local currency issuer ratings of Ba2 from Moody's Investors Service Pty Ltd (Moody's), with a stable outlook. The Company has previously received the highest AAA rating from Dagong Global Credit Rating Co., Ltd.
Mr. Zhao Wei, Chairman of China Everbright Limited and CALC, commented: “This is the first time CALC obtain an overseas credit rating. In the environment where the Covid-19 pandemic across the world is posing acute challenges to the aviation industry, the ratings fully reflect the Company's leading industry position and the high recognition of the Company's stable business, premium creditworthiness and strong shareholder from a professional ratings agency. As CALC’s largest shareholder, China Everbright Limited is confident in the Company’s development prospects. We will continue to follow our strategic planning and support CALC with more adequate resources to drive it towards the goal of becoming a ‘world-leading full-industry-chain aircraft leasing service provider’, persistently creating value for investors and partners.”
Moody’s ratings reflected CALC’s (1) portfolio of young and modern narrow-body aircraft and (2) China- focused client mix, which have reduced CALC’s operating risks and helped its performance amid the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry. The ratings agency also recognized CALC’s improved financial flexibility over the years with its gradually increasing unsecured borrowings.
In 2018, China Everbright Group (“CEG”) announced its “Four-Three-Three” development strategy – Four world-leading, Three firsts in China and Three with Chinese characteristics industries. CALC had become the prime target to be nurtured to be a world leading aircraft leasing company under the “Four world- leading” goal. With such strategic development importance, CALC had received more support from CEG. Having recognized the position of CALC within the strategically important aviation industry in China, Moody’s awarded the Company another one-notch uplift based on the agency’s expectation of a moderate level of government support for CALC.
“We are encouraged by the rating results. We believe this endorsement will help CALC lower its funding costs, optimize our debt profile and increase the proportion of unsecured borrowings, and help reach a broader group of investors, embracing the strong recovery momentum in in China, our home market. We have full confidence in becoming an investment grade issuer with another notch uplift in the medium term.” Mike Poon, CEO of CALC, said.
After successfully bringing COVID-19 under control in the first half of 2020, China has become the world’s largest air-travel market by seat capacity, surpassing the US, thanks to the country’s buoyant domestic air travel demand. It is also a consensus that China will become the world’s largest aviation market in coming years.
As of 31 December 2020, 78% of CALC’s owned fleet were leased to Chinese clients, the majority of which are state-owned airlines with strong financial strengths. The Company also operates a young and modern fleet, 91% of which are narrow-body aircraft. Its fleet serves mainly domestic routes and short-haul flights, which have been proven to be less impacted by the pandemic. With these strong operation and asset metrics, CALC ranked top among the world’s large-scale lessors in November 2020 with 95% of its fleet being in service.
Lessors’ role will be getting more and more dominant in the post-pandemic era as airlines incline to lower their capex on aircraft acquisitions to strengthen their cashflows. This trend will highlight the role of lessors. As such, the penetration rate of aircraft leasing is expected to grow from 50% currently to beyond 60% in the foreseeable future.
“Among all Chinese lessors, CALC has the largest direct orders with OEMs. Our order-book are all in narrow-body aircraft model, with bulk delivery from 2023 onwards. Our strong order book will not only enable CALC to capture the suppressed demand for aircraft and opportunities afforded by the expanding lessor segment in the imminent rebound of the aviation market, it will also support the sustainable development of our asset-light model by fueling our aircraft trading and aircraft asset management platform business, integrating them into the Company’s long term and stable core business system.” Poon added.