April 24, 2011 10:03 pm

Used business jet prices plunge to new lows

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Prices of some of the world’s best known business jets have plunged to remarkable lows as the stumbling global economic recovery puts a brake on spending by even the wealthy.

A one-year-old Learjet, that costs up to $13m new, can now be bought for as little as $8m, according to North Carolina-based business jet brokerage, Jetcraft.

“That’s a huge gap between new and pre-owned pricing,” said Jahid Fazal-Karim, Jetcraft co-owner, adding that similar discounts are being seen for other light and medium-sized executive jets.

These aircraft typically cost less than $25m and can fly from New York to Los Angeles nonstop, depending on their size. Their prices slumped during the financial crisis that savaged the business jet industry, and have failed to recover, despite a rebound in the corporate profits that have driven up executive jet demand after past downturns.

“In the last recovery, prices just shot up out of the basement,” said Fletcher Aldredge, publisher of the Vref aircraft price guide in the US. “But it isn’t quite like that now.”

“It’s new times, new rules,” said Anne-Bart Tieleman, managing director of GA-Finance, an Amsterdam firm that specialises in executive aviation financing.

“If an aircraft was priced at $10m before, you should be happy if you get $7m right now,” he added.

“Basically, there are no buyers. You can buy an almost brand new aircraft for 25-35 per cent less than what you had to pay two or three years ago,” Mr Tieleman said, citing an advert for a 2008 Cessna Citation XLS, an executive jet that cost about $11.7m new and is on sale for $7.7m. “This has never happened before. It’s just unprecedented.”

Even more striking, say some analysts, is the divide between these smaller aircraft and larger ones such as the long-range Gulfstream jets favoured by celebrities and billionaires that cost more than $25m.

Deliveries of the smaller aircraft fell by a “catastrophic” 57 per cent between 2008 and 2010, said Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group in Virginia.

But deliveries of larger jets actually rose 1.5 per cent and their asking prices have remained more stable.

“Our numbers go back to 1964 and we have never seen anything like this bifurcation before,” said Mr Aboulafia, who thinks customers for the cheaper jets rely more on bank finance that is now harder to arrange, and are also more sensitive to poor economic conditions. Also, larger jets are being bought by those more immune to the downturn, including governments and wealthy buyers in fast-growing economies such as China and Russia.

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