Leasing deal to cut GPA debts

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GPA GROUP, the world's largest aircraft leasing company, hopes to complete a dollars 750m leasing securitisation deal in the next few weeks to trim its multi- billion-dollar debts and help to meet commitments to buy new aircraft, writes Nick Gilbert.

The new money will help to pacify GPA's bankers, who were upset when an international public share offer was scrapped in June. This would have introduced dollars 700m of new equity into the Shannon-based company.

'We are actively pursuing a deal and hope to make an announcement before the end of September,' Colm Barrington, a director of GPA, said this weekend. The company, headed by its founder chairman, Tony Ryan, is also hoping to attract investors to a private placement of shares and has been talking to aircraft makers about delaying some of the dollars 12bn of aircraft it has ordered for the next decade.

GPA pulled off its first publicly traded securitised deal three months ago, raising more than dollars 500m by selling 'Alps' (aircraft leased portfolio securitisation) to international investors. It is hoped that the planned Alps 2 will be followed by an Alps 3 before Christmas.

In the financing deals, advised by Citicorp, GPA puts together a package of aircraft and the related third-party leases and sells debt securities to outside investors, typically those used to buying eurobonds. These securities can be publicly traded and are structured to obtain top ratings from credit agencies. Alps 1, for example, is rated AA, much higher than debt directly issued by GPA itself, some of which was downgraded by the agencies in the wake of the share issue fiasco.

Most of the risk in Alps 1, and the prospect of capital gain from any residual value in the aircraft when they are finally sold on, was taken by the finance subsidiary of Whirlpool, the US white goods maker that put up dollars 100m of equity for the deal.

'If GPA pulls off a second Alps deal by the autumn it will improve feeling towards them,' one of the company's bankers said this weekend. 'But they are still taking deliveries of planes, and in order to grow they will have to find new equity or delay some of those orders.'

(Photograph omitted)