ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Air Lease Corporation (the “Company”, “ALC”, “we”, “our” or “us”) is a leading aircraft leasing company that was founded by aircraft leasing industry pioneer, Steven F. Udvar-Házy. We are principally engaged in purchasing the most modern, fuel-efficient new technology commercial jet aircraft directly from aircraft manufacturers, such as The Boeing Company (“Boeing”) and Airbus S.A.S.(“Airbus”), and leasing those aircraft to airlines throughout the world with the intention to generate attractive returns on equity. In addition to our leasing activities, we sell aircraft from our fleet to third parties, including other leasing companies, financial services companies, airlines and other investors. We also provide fleet management services to investors and owners of aircraft portfolios for a management fee. Our operating performance is driven by the growth of our fleet, the terms of our leases, the interest rates on our debt, and the aggregate amount of our indebtedness, supplemented by gains from aircraft sales and our management fees.
We currently have relationships with over 200 airlines across 70 countries. We operate our business on a global basis, providing aircraft to airline customers in every major geographical region, including markets such as Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, U.S. and Canada, Central America, South America and Mexico, and the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. As air travel continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect demand for our modern fuel-efficient aircraft will continue to increase. In markets such as the United States and Western Europe, our strategy is to focus on the replacement market as many airlines look to replace aging aircraft with new, modern technology, fuel efficient jet aircraft. In less saturated markets, including parts of Asia, in addition to the replacement market, we serve customers expanding their fleets.
Many of these markets are experiencing increased demand for passenger airline travel and have lower market saturation than more mature markets such as the United States and Western Europe. We expect that these markets will also present significant replacement opportunities in upcoming years as many airlines look to replace aging aircraft with new, modern technology, fuel efficient jet aircraft. An important focus of our strategy is meeting the needs of this replacement market. Airlines in some of these markets have fewer financing alternatives, enabling us to command higher lease rates compared to those in more mature markets.
We mitigate the risks of owning and leasing aircraft through careful management and diversification of our leases and lessees by geography, lease term, and aircraft age and type. We believe that diversification of our fleet reduces the risks associated with individual lessee defaults and adverse geopolitical and regional economic events. We mitigate the risks associated with cyclical variations in the airline industry by managing customer concentrations and lease maturities in our fleet to minimize periods of concentrated lease expirations. In order to maximize residual values and minimize the risk of obsolescence, our strategy is to own an aircraft during the first third of its expected 25-year useful life.
During the year ended December 31, 2022, we purchased 60 new aircraft from Boeing and Airbus, purchased one aircraft from the secondary market, sold six aircraft and wrote-off our interests in 21 aircraft in our owned fleet that were detained in Russia. However, in October 2022, we recovered one of these aircraft. See “Impact of Russia-Ukraine conflict” in “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further discussion. We ended the year with a total of 417 aircraft in our owned fleet. The net book value of our fleet grew by 7.2% to $24.5 billion as of December 31, 2022 compared to $22.9 billion as of December 31, 2021. The weighted average age of our fleet was 4.5 years and the weighted average lease term remaining was 7.1 years as of December 31, 2022. Our managed fleet was comprised of 85 aircraft as of December 31, 2022 as compared to 92 aircraft as of December 31, 2021. We have a globally diversified customer base comprised of 117 airlines in 62 countries as of December 31, 2022. We continue to have a strong lease utilization rate of 99.6% for the year ended December 31, 2022.
As of December 31, 2022, we had commitments to purchase 398 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus for delivery through 2029, with an estimated aggregate commitment of $25.5 billion. We have placed approximately 90% of our committed orderbook on long-term leases for aircraft delivering through the end of 2024 and have placed 60% of our entire orderbook. We ended 2022 with $31.4 billion in committed minimum future rental payments, consisting of $15.6 billion in contracted minimum rental payments on the aircraft in our existing fleet and $15.8 billion in minimum future rental payments related to aircraft which will deliver between 2023 through 2028.
We typically finance the purchase of aircraft and our business with available cash balances, internally generated funds from our aircraft leasing and sales activities, and debt financings. Our debt financing strategy is focused on raising unsecured debt in the global
bank and debt capital markets, with limited utilization of government guaranteed export credit or other forms of secured financing. In 2022, we issued approximately $2.2 billion in aggregate principal amount of senior unsecured notes with maturities ranging from 2027 to 2032 with a weighted average interest rate of 3.59%. We ended 2022 with total debt outstanding of $18.8 billion, of which 91.3% was at a fixed rate and 99.3% of which was unsecured. As of December 31, 2022, our composite cost of funds raised through debt financings was 3.07%.
Our total revenues for the year ended December 31, 2022 increased by 11.0% to $2.3 billion as compared to 2021. The increase in total revenues was primarily driven by the continued growth in our fleet and significantly lower COVID-19 related lease restructuring and cash basis losses.
During the year ended December 31, 2022, we recorded net loss attributable to shareholders of $138.7 million, or net loss of $1.24 per diluted share, as compared to net income attributable to shareholders of $408.2 million, or $3.57 per diluted share, for the year ended December 31, 2021. Despite the growth of our fleet, the decrease was due to the net impact of the write-off of our Russian fleet, which totaled approximately $771.5 million for the year ended December 31, 2022. See “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” for more information on our financial results for the year ended December 31, 2022.
Our adjusted net income before income taxes excludes the effects of certain non-cash items, one-time or non-recurring items that are not expected to continue in the future and certain other items, such as the net impact of the write-off of our Russian fleet. Adjusted net income before income taxes for the year ended December 31, 2022 increased 11.9% to $659.9 million compared to $589.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2021. Adjusted net income before income taxes per diluted share increased 14.4% to $5.89 per adjusted diluted share for the year ended December 31, 2022 compared to $5.15 per adjusted diluted share for the year ended December 31, 2021. Our adjusted net income before income taxes and adjusted diluted earnings per share before income taxes increased for the year ended December 31, 2022 as compared to 2021, primarily due to the continued growth of our fleet and the increase in revenues.
Adjusted net income before income taxes and adjusted diluted earnings per share before income taxes are measures of financial and operational performance that are not defined by U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”). See “Results of Operations” in “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for a discussion of adjusted net income before income taxes and adjusted diluted earnings per share before income taxes as non-GAAP measures and a reconciliation of these measures to net income attributable to common stockholders.
Performance of the commercial airline industry is linked to global economic health and development. Passenger traffic has historically expanded at a faster rate than global gross domestic product (“GDP”) growth, in part due to the expansion of the middle class and the ease and affordability of air travel and we expect this trend to continue. Global air travel continues to recover following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Air Transport Association (“IATA”) reported that passenger traffic was up 64% during 2022 relative to the prior year, due to a significant acceleration in international traffic and strong continued expansion of domestic traffic in most markets. International traffic in 2022 rose 153% relative to the prior year, benefiting from further relaxation of international travel restrictions in a number of countries. Global domestic traffic rose 11% during 2022 as compared to the prior year, with most major markets experiencing double-digit percentage increases except for China, which was constrained by temporary domestic travel restrictions. According to IATA, several international routes are now exceeding 2019 traffic levels or are expected to exceed those levels near term and several domestic markets are quickly approaching 2019 levels. In January 2023, international travel restrictions in China were lifted, which should further bolster global international traffic volumes this year and beyond. Additionally, IATA has previously reported that it expects global passenger departures to return to 2019 levels by 2024.
Fundamental drivers of our business have demonstrated significant durability through numerous cycles and downturns. These drivers include: the growth of passenger traffic over time; the increased role of lessors to finance a greater share of the world’s fleet; and the need and desire for airlines to replace aging aircraft. Elevated fuel costs and other expenses inherent in operating older aircraft, along with environmental sustainability initiatives are also driving increased demand for new aircraft.
Operations to Date
The net book value of our fleet increased by 7.2% to $24.5 billion as of December 31, 2022 compared to $22.9 billion as of December 31, 2021. As of December 31, 2022, we owned 417 aircraft in our aircraft portfolio, comprised of 306 narrowbody aircraft and 111 widebody aircraft. As of December 31, 2022, the weighted average fleet age and weighted average remaining lease term of our fleet was 4.5 years and 7.1 years, respectively. We had a managed fleet of 85 aircraft as of December 31, 2022 compared to 92 as of December 31, 2021. References throughout this Annual Report on Form 10-K to “our fleet” refer to the aircraft included in flight equipment subject to operating leases and do not include aircraft in our managed fleet or aircraft classified as net investments in sales-type leases unless the context indicates otherwise.
Over 95% of our aircraft are operated internationally. The following table sets forth the dollar amount and percentage of our Rental of flight equipment revenues attributable to the respective geographical regions based on each airline’s principal place of business:
|Year Ended |
December 31, 2022
|Year Ended |
December 31, 2021
|Year Ended |
December 31, 2020
|Region||Amount of Rental Revenue||% of Total||Amount of Rental Revenue||% of Total||Amount of Rental Revenue||% of Total|
|(in thousands, except percentages)|
|Asia (excluding China)||$||625,355 ||28.2 ||%||$||558,020 ||27.9 ||%||$||573,722 ||29.5 ||%|
|Europe ||611,091 ||27.6 ||%||564,479 ||28.2 ||%||525,543 ||27.0 ||%|
|China||359,976 ||16.3 ||%||352,375 ||17.6 ||%||341,121 ||17.5 ||%|
|The Middle East and Africa ||251,243 ||11.3 ||%||210,977 ||10.5 ||%||220,017 ||11.3 ||%|
|U.S. and Canada ||143,266 ||6.5 ||%||130,717 ||6.5 ||%||106,694 ||5.5 ||%|
|Central America, South America and Mexico||141,638 ||6.4 ||%||104,315 ||5.2 ||%||88,113 ||4.5 ||%|
|Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand||81,939 ||3.7 ||%||82,454 ||4.1 ||%||91,410 ||4.7 ||%|
|$||2,214,508 ||100.0 ||%||$||2,003,337 ||100.0 ||%||$||1,946,620 ||100.0 ||%|
The following table sets forth the regional concentration based on each airline's principal place of business of our flight equipment subject to operating lease based on net book value as of December 31, 2022 and 2021:
|Year Ended |
December 31, 2022
|Year Ended |
December 31, 2021
|% of Total||Net Book|
|% of Total|
|(in thousands, except percentages)|
|Europe||$||7,985,317 ||32.5 ||%||$||7,439,993 ||32.5 ||%|
|Asia (excluding China)||7,144,188 ||29.1 ||%||5,952,981 ||26.0 ||%|
|China||2,792,022 ||11.4 ||%||2,934,224 ||12.8 ||%|
|The Middle East and Africa||2,253,342 ||9.3 ||%||2,447,919 ||10.7 ||%|
|Central America, South America, and Mexico||1,924,216 ||7.8 ||%||1,566,133 ||6.8 ||%|
|U.S. and Canada||1,557,260 ||6.3 ||%||1,638,450 ||7.2 ||%|
|Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand||882,040 ||3.6 ||%||919,304 ||4.0 ||%|
|Total||$||24,538,385 ||100.0 ||%||$||22,899,004 ||100.0 ||%|
At December 31, 2022 and 2021, we owned and managed leased aircraft to customers in the following regions based on each airline’s principal place of business:
|Year Ended |
December 31, 2022
|Year Ended |
December 31, 2021
Number of Customers(1)
|% of Total|
Number of Customers(1)
|% of Total|
|Europe ||49 ||41.9 ||%||50 ||42.5 ||%|
|Asia (excluding China)||23 ||19.7 ||%||22 ||18.6 ||%|
|The Middle East and Africa ||14 ||12.0 ||%||14 ||11.9 ||%|
|U.S. and Canada ||13 ||11.1 ||%||13 ||11.0 ||%|
|China||8 ||6.8 ||%||9 ||7.6 ||%|
|Central America, South America and Mexico||7 ||6.0 ||%||7 ||5.9 ||%|
|Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand||3 ||2.5 ||%||3 ||2.5 ||%|
|Total ||117 ||100.0 ||%||118 ||100.0 ||%|
(1) A customer is an airline with its own operating certificate.
For the years ended December 31, 2022, 2021, and 2020, China was the only individual country that represented at least 10% of our rental revenue based on each airline's principal place of business; however, no individual airline contributed more than 10% to our rental revenue. Our customer base is highly diversified, with our average customer representing approximately 1.0% of our fleet net book value as of December 31, 2022. We also have a global customer base with the average country representing approximately 1.8% of our fleet net book value as of December 31, 2022.
Aircraft Acquisition Strategy
We seek to acquire the most highly in demand and widely distributed, modern technology, fuel efficient and lowest emissions narrowbody and widebody commercial jet aircraft. Our strategy is to order new aircraft directly from the manufacturers. When placing new aircraft orders with the manufacturers, we strategically target the replacement of aging aircraft with modern technology aircraft. Additionally, we look to supplement our order pipeline with opportunistic purchases of aircraft in the secondary market and participate in sale-leaseback transactions with airlines. In addition to our focus on commercial aircraft, we have expanded our focus to include the cargo market based on customer demand.
Prior to ordering aircraft, we evaluate the market for specific types of aircraft. We consider the overall demand for the aircraft type in the marketplace based on our deep knowledge of the aviation industry and our customer relationships. It is important to assess the airplane’s economic viability, the operating performance characteristics, engine variant options, intended utilization by our customers, and which aircraft types it will replace or compete within the global market. Additionally, we study the effects of global airline passenger traffic growth in order to determine the likely demand for our new aircraft upon delivery.
For new aircraft deliveries, we source many components separately, which include seats, safety equipment, avionics, galleys, cabin finishes, engines, and other equipment. Oftentimes, we are able to achieve lower pricing through direct bulk purchase contracts with the component manufacturers than would be achievable if we relied on the airframe manufacturers to source the components for the aircraft themselves. Airframe manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus install these buyer furnished equipment in our aircraft during the final assembly process at their facilities. With this purchasing strategy, we are able to both meet specific customer configuration requirements and lower our total acquisition cost of the aircraft.
Aircraft Leasing Strategy
The airline industry is complex and constantly evolving due to changes in the competitive landscape and passenger traffic patterns. Fleet flexibility is key to the airlines’ ability to effectively operate and compete in their respective markets. Operating leases offer airlines significant fleet flexibility by allowing them to adapt and manage their fleets through varying market conditions without bearing the full financial risk associated with these capital intensive assets which have an expected useful life of 25 years. We work closely with our airline customers throughout the world to help optimize their long-term aircraft fleet strategies. We may also, from time to time, work with our airline customers to assist them in obtaining financing for aircraft.
We work to mitigate the risks associated with owning and leasing aircraft and cyclical variations in the airline industry through careful management of our fleet, including managing customer concentrations by geography and region, entering into long-term leases, staggering lease maturities, balancing aircraft type exposures, and maintaining a young fleet age. We believe that diversification of our fleet reduces the risks associated with individual customer defaults and the impact of adverse geopolitical and regional economic events. In order to maximize residual values and minimize the risk of obsolescence, our strategy is generally to own an aircraft for approximately the first third of its expected 25-year useful life.
Our management team identifies prospective airline customers based upon industry knowledge and long-standing relationships. Prior to leasing an aircraft, we evaluate the competitive positioning of the airline, the strength and quality of the management team, and the financial performance of the airline. Management obtains and reviews relevant business materials from all prospective customers before entering into a lease agreement. Under certain circumstances, the customer may be required to obtain guarantees or other financial support from a sovereign entity or a financial institution. We work closely with our existing customers and potential lessees to develop customized lease structures that address their specific needs. We typically enter into a lease agreement 18 to 36 months in advance of the delivery of a new aircraft from our orderbook. Once the aircraft has been delivered and operated by the airline, we look to remarket the aircraft and sign a follow-on lease six to 12 months ahead of the scheduled expiry of the initial lease term.
Our leases are typically structured as operating leases with fixed rates and terms and typically require cash security deposits and maintenance reserve payments. In addition, our leases are all structured as triple net leases, whereby the lessee is responsible for all operating costs, including taxes, insurance and maintenance and also contain provisions which require payment whether or not the aircraft is operated, irrespective of the circumstances. Substantially all of our leases require payments to be made in U.S. dollars.
In addition, our leases require the lessee to be responsible for compliance with applicable laws and regulations with respect to the aircraft. We require our lessees to comply with the standards of either the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) or its equivalent in foreign jurisdictions. As a function of these laws and the provisions in our lease contracts, the lessees are responsible for performing all maintenance of the aircraft and returning the aircraft and its components in a specified return condition. Generally, we receive a cash deposit and maintenance reserves as security for the lessee’s performance of its obligations under the lease and the condition of the aircraft upon return. In addition, most leases contain extensive provisions regarding our remedies and rights in the event of a default by a lessee. The lessee generally is required to continue to make lease payments under all circumstances, including periods during which the aircraft is not in operation due to maintenance or grounding.
Some foreign countries have currency and exchange laws regulating the international transfer of currencies. When necessary, we may require, as a condition to any foreign transaction, that the lessee or purchaser in a foreign country obtain the necessary approvals of the appropriate government agency, finance ministry, or central bank for the remittance of all funds contractually owed in U.S. dollars. We attempt to minimize our currency and exchange risks by negotiating the designated payment currency in our leases to be U.S. dollars. To meet the needs of certain of our airline customers, we have agreed to accept certain lease payments in a foreign currency. After we agree to the rental payment currency with an airline, the negotiated currency typically remains for the term of the lease. We may enter into contracts to mitigate our foreign currency risk, but we expect that the economic risk arising from foreign currency denominated leases will be immaterial to us.
We may, in connection with the lease of used aircraft, agree to contribute specific additional amounts to the cost of certain first major maintenance events or modifications, which usually reflect the usage of the aircraft prior to the commencement of the lease. We may be obligated under the leases to make reimbursements of maintenance reserves previously received to lessees for expenses incurred for certain planned major maintenance. We also, on occasion, may contribute towards aircraft modifications and recover any such costs over the life of the lease.
During the lease term, we closely follow the operating and financial performance of our lessees. We maintain a high level of communication with the lessee and frequently evaluate the state of the market in which the lessee operates, including the impact of changes in passenger air travel and preferences, the impact of delivery delays, changes in general economic conditions, emerging competition, new government regulations, regional catastrophes, and other unforeseen shocks that are relevant to the airline’s market. This enables us to identify lessees that may be experiencing operating and financial difficulties. This identification assists us in assessing the lessee’s ability to fulfill its obligations under the lease. This monitoring also identifies candidates, where appropriate, to
restructure the lease prior to the lessee’s insolvency or the initiation of bankruptcy or similar proceedings. Once an insolvency or bankruptcy occurs, we typically have less control over, and would most likely incur greater costs in connection with, the restructuring of the lease or the repossession of the aircraft.
During the life of the lease, situations may emerge that place our customers under significant financial pressure, such as the circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which may lead us to repossess our aircraft or restructure our leases with our airline customers. When we repossess an aircraft leased in a foreign country, we generally expect to export the aircraft from the lessee’s jurisdiction. In some situations, the lessees may not fully cooperate in returning the aircraft. In those cases, we will take appropriate legal action, a process that could ultimately delay the return and export of the aircraft. In addition, in connection with the repossession of an aircraft, we may be required to pay outstanding mechanics’ liens, airport charges, navigation fees and other amounts secured by liens on the repossessed aircraft. These charges could relate to other aircraft that we do not own but were operated by the lessee.
Our lease agreements are generally structured to require lessees to notify us six to 12 months in advance of the lease’s expiration if a lessee desires to renew or extend the lease. Requiring lessees to provide us with such advance notice provides our management team with an extended period of time to consider a broad set of alternatives with respect to the aircraft, including assessing general market and competitive conditions and preparing to remarket or sell the aircraft. If a lessee fails to provide us with notice, the lease will automatically expire at the end of the term, and the lessee will be required to return the aircraft pursuant to the conditions in the lease. As discussed above, our leases contain detailed provisions regarding the required condition of the aircraft and its components upon return at the end of the lease term.
Aircraft Sales & Trading Strategy
Our strategy is to maintain a portfolio of young modern aircraft with a widely diversified customer base. In order to achieve this profile, we primarily order new planes directly from the manufacturers, place them on long-term leases, and sell the aircraft when they near the end of the first third of their expected 25-year economic useful life. We typically sell aircraft that are currently operated by an airline with multiple years of lease term remaining on the contract, in order to achieve the maximum disposition value of the aircraft. Buyers of the aircraft may include other leasing companies, financial institutions, airlines and other investors. We also, from time to time, buy and sell aircraft on an opportunistic basis for trading profits. Additionally, as discussed below, we may provide management services to buyers of our aircraft assets for a fee.
Aircraft Management Strategy
We supplement our core business model by providing fleet management services to third-party investors and owners of aircraft portfolios for a management fee. This allows us to better serve our airline customers and expand our existing airline customer base by providing additional leasing opportunities beyond our own aircraft portfolio, new order pipeline, and customer or regional concentration limits. As of December 31, 2022, we had a managed fleet of 85 aircraft.
We finance the purchase of aircraft and our business with available cash balances, internally generated funds, including through aircraft sales and trading activity and an array of financing products. We aim to maintain investment-grade credit metrics and focus our debt financing strategy on funding our business primarily on an unsecured basis with mostly fixed-rate debt from public bond offerings. Unsecured financing provides us with operational flexibility when selling or transitioning aircraft from one airline to another. We also have the ability to seek debt financing secured by our assets, as well as financings supported through the Export-Import Bank of the United States and other export credit agencies for aircraft deliveries.
We require our lessees to carry those types of insurance that are customary in the air transportation industry, including comprehensive liability insurance, aircraft all-risk hull insurance, and war-risk insurance covering risks such as hijacking, terrorism but excluding coverage for weapons of mass destruction and nuclear events), confiscation, expropriation, seizure, and nationalization. We generally require a certificate of insurance from the lessee’s insurance broker prior to delivery of an aircraft. Generally, all
certificates of insurance contain a breach of warranty endorsement so that our interests are not prejudiced by any act or omission of the lessee. Lease agreements generally require hull and liability limits to be in U.S. dollars, which are shown on the certificate of insurance.
Insurance premiums are to be paid by the lessee, with coverage acknowledged by the broker or carrier. The territorial coverage, in each case, should be suitable for the lessee’s area of operations and based on available insurance coverages. We generally require that the certificates of insurance contain, among other provisions, a provision prohibiting cancellation or material change without at least 30 days’ advance written notice to the insurance broker (who would be obligated to give us prompt notice), except in the case of hull war and liability war insurance policies, which customarily only provide seven days’ advance written notice for cancellation and may be subject to shorter notice under certain market conditions. Furthermore, the insurance is primary and not contributory, and we require that all insurance carriers be required to waive rights of subrogation against us.
The stipulated loss value schedule under aircraft hull insurance policies is on an agreed-value basis acceptable to us and usually exceeds the book value of the aircraft. In cases where we believe that the agreed value stated in the lease is not sufficient, we make arrangements to cover such deficiency, which would include the purchase of additional “Total Loss Only” coverage for the deficiency.
Aircraft hull policies generally contain standard clauses covering aircraft and engines. The lessee is required to pay all deductibles. Furthermore, the hull war policies generally contain full war risk endorsements, including, but not limited to, confiscation (where available), seizure, hijacking and similar forms of retention or terrorist acts.
The comprehensive liability insurance listed on certificates of insurance generally includes provisions for bodily injury, property damage, passenger liability, cargo liability, and such other provisions reasonably necessary in commercial passenger and cargo airline operations. We expect that such certificates of insurance list combined comprehensive single liability limits of not less than $500 million for Airbus and Boeing aircraft. As a standard in the industry, airline operator’s policies contain a sublimit for third-party war risk liability generally in the amount of at least $150 million. We require each lessee to purchase higher limits of third-party war risk liability or obtain an indemnity from its respective government.
The international aviation insurance market has exclusions for physical damage to aircraft hulls caused by dirty bombs, bio-hazardous materials, and electromagnetic pulsing. Exclusions for the same type of perils could be introduced into liability policies in the future.
We cannot assure you that our lessees will be adequately insured against all risks in all territories in which they operate, that lessees will at all times comply with their obligations to maintain insurance, that any particular claim will be paid, or that lessees will be able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at commercially reasonable rates in the future.
In addition to the insurance coverage obtained by our lessees, we separately purchase contingent liability insurance and contingent hull insurance on all aircraft in our owned fleet and maintain other insurance covering the specific needs of our business operations. While we believe our insurance is adequate both as to coverages and amounts based on industry standards in the current market, we cannot assure you that we are adequately insured against all risks and in all territories in which our aircraft operate. For example, following the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are now generally excluded from coverage in our contingent liability, contingent hull and contingent hull war insurance consistent with insurance market terms available at the time these policies were last renewed.
The leasing, remarketing, and sale of aircraft is highly competitive. While we are one of the largest aircraft lessors operating on a global scale, the aircraft leasing industry is diversified with a large number of competitors. We face competition from aircraft manufacturers, banks, financial institutions, other leasing companies, aircraft brokers and airlines. Some of our competitors may have greater operating and financial resources and access to lower capital costs than we have. Competition for leasing transactions is based on a number of factors, including delivery dates, lease rates, lease terms, other lease provisions, aircraft condition, and the availability in the marketplace of the types of aircraft required to meet the needs of airline customers. Competition in the purchase and sale of used aircraft is based principally on the availability of used aircraft, price, the terms of the lease to which an aircraft is subject, and the creditworthiness of the lessee, if any.
The air transportation industry is highly regulated. We do not operate commercial jet aircraft, and thus may not be directly subject to many industry laws and regulations, such as regulations of the U.S. Department of State (the “DOS”), the U.S. Department of Transportation, or their counterpart organizations in foreign countries regarding the operation of aircraft for public transportation of passengers and property. As discussed below, however, we are subject to government regulation in a number of respects. In addition, our lessees are subject to extensive regulation under the laws of the jurisdictions in which they are registered or operate. These laws govern, among other things, the registration, operation, maintenance, and condition of the aircraft.
We are required to register our aircraft with an aviation authority mutually agreed upon with our lessee. Each aircraft registered to fly must have a Certificate of Airworthiness, which is a certificate demonstrating the aircraft’s compliance with applicable government rules and regulations and that the aircraft is considered airworthy. Each airline we lease to must have a valid operation certificate to operate our aircraft. Our lessees are obligated to maintain the Certificates of Airworthiness for the aircraft they lease.
Our involvement with the civil aviation authorities of foreign jurisdictions consists largely of requests to register and deregister our aircraft on those countries’ registries.
We are also subject to the regulatory authority of the DOS and the U.S. Department of Commerce (the “DOC”) to the extent such authority relates to the export of aircraft for lease and sale to foreign entities and the export of parts to be installed on our aircraft. We may be required to obtain export licenses for parts installed in aircraft exported to foreign countries. The DOC and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (through its Office of Foreign Assets Control, or “OFAC”) impose restrictions on the operation of U.S.-made goods, such as aircraft and engines, in sanctioned countries, as well as on the ability of U.S. companies to conduct business with entities in those countries and with other entities or individuals subject to blocking orders. The U.S. Patriot Act of 2001 (the “Patriot Act”) prohibits financial transactions by U.S. persons, including U.S. individuals, entities, and charitable organizations, with individuals and organizations designated as terrorists and terrorist supporters by the U.S. Secretary of State or the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a law enforcement agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, enforces regulations related to the import of aircraft into the United States for maintenance or lease and the importation of parts into the U.S. for installation.
Jurisdictions in which aircraft are registered as well as jurisdictions in which they operate may impose regulations relating to noise and emission standards. In addition, most countries’ aviation laws require aircraft to be maintained under an approved maintenance program with defined procedures and intervals for inspection, maintenance and repair. To the extent that aircraft are not subject to a lease or a lessee is not in compliance, we are required to comply with such requirements, possibly at our own expense.
Environmental Strategy and GHG Emissions
The airline industry is focused on addressing its environmental impact in response to increasingly stringent environmental laws and regulations concerning air emissions and other impacts to the environment. Our fleet of modern fuel-efficient aircraft continues to expand, with each new aircraft delivered from our orderbook providing an approximately 20% to 25% reduction in fuel consumption and emissions relative to the prior generations they replace. Approximately 80% of commercial passenger aircraft in service worldwide are prior generation aircraft and we believe this will result in our airline customers accelerating their transition to the most modern technology, fuel-efficient commercial aircraft we own and have on order.
With 398 of the most modern aircraft available currently on order through 2029, we are committed to purchasing the most fuel-efficient commercial aircraft available and leasing them to our customers worldwide, primarily targeting airline customers looking to replace older aircraft or airlines looking to add routes.
Below is a summary of the GHG emissions factors used and the GHG emissions by type for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021. Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions information has been prepared in accordance with the World Resources Institute (WRI)/World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard and WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance, collectively referred to herein as the GHG Protocol (the “GHG Protocol”).
GHG Emissions Factors
|Emissions Scope||Emissions Source||Emissions Factor Employed|
|Scope 1 (Direct)||Natural Gas|
Diesel Backup Generators
|• Natural gas: US EPA's Emission Factors for Greenhouse Gas Inventories, dated April 2022, were applied. For all natural gas emission sources at international locations, the UK Government GHG Conversion Factors for Company Reporting, dated January 2022, were applied.|
• Diesel for backup generators: CGHGP Emission Factors from Cross Sector Tools, dated May 2017, were applied.
• Aviation fuel: Aviation fuel emission factors within the UK Government GHG Conversion Factors for Company Reporting dated January 2022 were applied.
|Scope 2 (Indirect - Location-Based)||Electricity|
|The appropriate eGRID region was identified from the US EPA's Emission Factors for Greenhouse Inventories, dated April 2022, (if a U.S. facility) or a publicly available regional factor (if international facility). The most recently published electricity emission factor from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland was applied to Dublin and the Carbon Footprint Country specific Electricity Grid Greenhouse Gas Emission Factors, dated March 2022, was applied to Hong Kong.|
GHG Emissions by Type
|Carbon Dioxide||Methane||Nitrous Oxide||Total|
|Scope 1 Direct||4,394 ||3 ||42 ||4,439 |
|Scope 2 Indirect - Location-Based||220 ||— ||1 ||221 |
All GHG emissions figures are in metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). In accordance with the GHG Protocol, we have included in our reporting carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) emissions have been omitted as they are not material sources of greenhouse gases for us. The emissions figures provided above are based on the reporting tools and information reasonably available to us during the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021. There may be variations in methodology used by other companies in reporting emissions data, and consequently it is not always practical to directly compare emissions from different companies. In addition, future emissions results may vary as the methodology and performance measures applied by the aviation industry and by us continue to evolve.
Human Capital Resources
Culture and Values
We strive to conduct our business with integrity and in an honest and responsible manner and to build and maintain long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with our customers, suppliers, shareholders, employees and other stakeholders. We are also committed to fostering, cultivating and preserving a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We believe that a diverse and inclusive culture helps maintain our position as a preeminent aircraft leasing company. As of December 31, 2022, more than 30% of our employees are multicultural and over 50% are female. Our values and priorities are further specified in our code of conduct and our ethics-related compliance policies, procedures, trainings, and programs. Ethical and inclusive behavior is strongly promoted by the management team and these values are reflected in our long-term strategy and our way of doing business.
Employees, Compensation and Benefits
Pay equity is central to our mission to attract and retain the best talent. Our compensation philosophy and reward structure are designed to compensate employees equitably and free of any bias. We demonstrate our commitment to pay equity by regularly reviewing our compensation practices for all our employees. Further, the health and wellness of our employees is a priority, and we offer employee benefits including a competitive compensation philosophy with comprehensive benchmarking analysis. Other benefits for which our employees in the United States, and to the extent practicable outside of the United States, are eligible for include but are
not limited to: cash bonus programs, our long-term incentive plan, employee-funded 401(k) programs with company matching, education reimbursement, company-paid medical, dental and vision insurance, company-paid life insurance, reimbursement accounts and remote healthcare services among other health and wellness offerings. As of December 31, 2022, we had 151 full-time employees. None of our employees are represented by a union or collective bargaining agreements.
Access to Our Information
We file annual, quarterly, current reports, proxy statements and other information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). We make our public SEC filings available, at no cost, through our website at http://www.airleasecorp.com as soon as reasonably practicable after the report is electronically filed with, or furnished to, the SEC. The information contained on or connected to our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K and should not be considered part of this or any other report filed with the SEC. We will also provide these reports in electronic or paper format free of charge upon written request made to Investor Relations at 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 1000N, Los Angeles, California 90067. Our SEC filings are also available free of charge on the SEC’s website at http://www.sec.gov.
Our website is http://www.airleasecorp.com. We may post information that is important to investors on our website. Information included or referred to on, or otherwise accessible through, our website is not intended to form a part of or be incorporated by reference into this report.
Information about our Executive Officers
Set forth below is certain information concerning each of our executive officers as of February 16, 2023, including his/her age and current position with the Company. All of our executive officers have been employed by us during the past five years.
Steven F. Udvar-Házy
|76||Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors|
John L. Plueger
|68||Chief Executive Officer, President and Director|
Carol H. Forsyte
|60||Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer|
Gregory B. Willis
|44||Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer|
Alex A. Khatibi
|62||Executive Vice President|
|49||Executive Vice President, Marketing|
Grant A. Levy
|60||Executive Vice President, Marketing and Commercial Affairs|
John D. Poerschke
|61||Executive Vice President of Aircraft Procurement and Specifications|
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
The following important risk factors, and those risk factors described elsewhere in this report or in our other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, could cause our actual results to differ materially from those stated in forward-looking statements contained in this document and elsewhere. These risks are not presented in order of importance or probability of occurrence. Further, the risks described below are not the only risks that we face. Additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also impair our business operations. Any of these risks may have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, financial condition, results of operations, profitability, cash flows or liquidity.
Risks relating to our capital requirements and debt financings
Our substantial indebtedness will require significant capital to refinance our outstanding indebtedness and to acquire aircraft; our inability to make our debt payments and obtain incremental capital may have a material adverse effect on our business.
We and our subsidiaries have a significant amount of indebtedness. As of December 31, 2022, our total consolidated indebtedness, net of discounts and issuance costs, was approximately $18.6 billion and our interest payments were approximately $533.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2022. We expect these amounts to grow as we acquire more aircraft. Our level of debt could have important consequences, including making it more difficult for us to satisfy our debt payment obligations and requiring a substantial portion of our cash flows to be dedicated to debt service payments; limiting our ability to obtain additional financing; increasing our vulnerability to negative economic and industry conditions; increasing our interest rate risk; and limiting our flexibility in planning for and reacting to changes in our industry.
Growing our fleet will require us to obtain substantial capital through additional financing, which may not be available to us on favorable terms or at all. As of December 31, 2022, we had 398 new aircraft on order with an estimated aggregate purchase price of approximately $25.5 billion. In addition to utilizing cash flow from operations to meet these commitments and to maintain an adequate level of unrestricted cash, we will need to raise additional funds by accessing committed debt facilities, securing additional financing from banks or through capital markets offerings. We also need to maintain access to the capital and credit markets and other sources of financing in order to repay or refinance our outstanding debt obligations.
Our access to financing sources depends upon a number of factors over which we have limited control, including general market conditions and interest rate fluctuations; periods of unexpected market disruption and volatility; the market's view of the quality of our assets, perception of our growth potential and assessment of our credit risk; the relative attractiveness of alternative investments; and the trading prices of our debt securities and preferred and common equity securities. Depending on market conditions at the time and our access to capital, we may also have to rely more heavily on additional equity issuances or on less efficient forms of debt financing that may require a larger portion of our cash flow from operations to service, thereby reducing funds available for our operations, future business opportunities and other purposes. Further, the issuance of additional shares of our outstanding preferred stock or any other preferred stock approved by our board of directors pursuant to our charter may result in such preferred stockholders having rights, preferences or privileges senior to existing Class A common stockholders, who would not have the ability to approve such issuance. These alternative measures may not be successful and may not permit us to make required repayments on our debt or meet our aircraft purchase commitments as they come due and other cash needs. The issuance of additional equity may be dilutive to existing shareholders or otherwise may be on terms not favorable to us or existing shareholders.
If we are unable to generate sufficient cash flows from operations and cannot obtain capital on terms acceptable to us, we may be forced to seek alternatives, such as to reduce or delay investments and aircraft purchases, or to sell aircraft. We also may not be able to satisfy funding requirements for any aircraft acquisition commitments then in place, which could force us to forfeit our deposits and/or expose us to potential breach of contract claims by our lessees and manufacturers.
As a result of these risks and repercussions, our inability to make our debt payments and/or obtain incremental capital to fund future aircraft purchases may have a material adverse effect on our business.
Cost of borrowing or interest rate increases may adversely affect our net income and our ability to compete in the marketplace.
We finance our business through a combination of short-term and long-term debt financings, with most bearing interest at a fixed rate and some bearing interest at a floating rate that varies with changes in the applicable reference rate. As of December 31,
2022, we had $17.2 billion of fixed rate debt and $1.6 billion of floating rate debt outstanding. Further, we have outstanding preferred stock with an aggregate stated amount of $850.0 million that currently pays dividends at a fixed rate, but will alternate to paying dividends based on a floating rate after the initial five years from issuance. Any increase in our cost of borrowing directly impacts our net income. Throughout the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, market interest rates increased substantially, with the federal funds rate increasing from approximately 0.25% in the beginning of 2022 to approximately 4.25% at the end of 2022 and such increases may continue in the future. If the composite interest rate on our outstanding floating rate debt were to increase by 1.0%, we would expect to incur additional annual interest expense on our existing indebtedness as of December 31, 2022, of approximately $16.3 million. Our cost of borrowing is affected primarily by the market’s assessment of our credit risk and fluctuations in interest rates and general market conditions. Interest rates that we obtain on our debt financings can fluctuate based on, among other things, changes in views of our credit risk, fluctuations in U.S. Treasury rates and the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”), as applicable, changes in credit spreads, and the duration of the debt being issued. Increased interest rates prevailing in the market at the time of our incurrence of new debt will also increase our interest expense.
Moreover, if interest rates continue to rise sharply, we will not be able to immediately offset the negative impact on our net income by increasing lease rates, even if the market were able to bear the increased lease rates. Our leases are generally for multiple years with fixed lease rates over the life of the lease and, therefore, lags will exist because our lease rates with respect to a particular aircraft cannot generally be increased until the expiration of the lease. Higher interest expense and the need to offset higher borrowing costs by increasing lease rates may ultimately impact our ability to compete with other aircraft leasing companies in the marketplace, especially if those companies have lower cost of funding.
Decreases in interest rates may also adversely affect our business. Since our fixed rate leases are based, in part, on prevailing interest rates at the time we enter into the lease, if interest rates decrease, new fixed rate leases we enter into may be at lower lease rates and our lease revenue will be adversely affected.
In addition, certain of our debt instruments and equity securities that accrue dividends at a floating rate include the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) as the benchmark or reference rate. The Chief Executive of the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (the “FCA”), which regulates LIBOR, publicly announced that publication of certain tenors of U.S. dollar LIBOR (including overnight and one, three, six and 12 months) will permanently cease after June 30, 2023. While all of the agreements governing our LIBOR linked debt and Series A Preferred Stock obligations that are set to mature after June 30, 2023, contain LIBOR transition fallback provisions, the lack of a standard market practice and inconsistency in fallback provisions in recent years is reflected across these agreements. For example, our Series A Preferred Stock contains LIBOR fallback provisions that will allow for the use of an alternative reference rate selected by the central bank, reserve bank, monetary authority or any similar institution that is consistent with market practice regarding a substitute for three-month LIBOR. If we determine there is no such alternative reference rate, then we must select an independent financial advisor to determine a substitute rate for LIBOR, and if an independent financial advisor cannot determine an alternative reference rate, the dividend rate, business day convention and manner of calculating dividends applicable during the fixed-rate period of the Series A Preferred Stock will be in effect. The implementation of a substitute reference rate for the calculation of interest rates under our LIBOR linked debt obligations and our Series A Preferred Stock may cause us to incur expenses in effecting the transition and may result in disputes with our lenders or holders of Series A Preferred Stock over the appropriateness or comparability to LIBOR of the substitute reference rate selected. In addition, any substitute reference rates could result in interest and dividend payments that do not correlate over time with the payments that would have been made on our indebtedness or Series A Preferred Stock, as applicable, if LIBOR was available in its current form.
If any of these circumstances occur, our net income and/or our ability to compete in the marketplace may be adversely affected.
Negative changes in our credit ratings may limit our ability to obtain financing or increase our borrowing costs, which may adversely impact our net income and/or our ability to compete in the marketplace.
We are currently subject to periodic review by independent credit rating agencies S&P, Fitch and Kroll, each of which currently maintains an investment grade rating with respect to us, and we may become subject to periodic review by other independent credit rating agencies in the future. Our ability to obtain debt financing and our cost of debt financing is dependent, in part, on our credit ratings and we cannot assure you that these credit ratings will remain in effect or that a rating will not be lowered, suspended or withdrawn. Maintaining our credit ratings depends in part on strong financial results and other factors, including the outlook of the rating agencies on our sector and on the market generally. Ratings are not a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security, and each agency’s rating should be evaluated independently of any other agency’s rating. Actual or anticipated changes or downgrades in our
credit ratings, including any announcement that our ratings are under review for a downgrade, could increase our borrowing costs and limit our access to the capital markets, which may adversely impact our net income and/or our ability to compete in the marketplace.
Certain of our debt agreements contain covenants that impose restrictions on us and our subsidiaries that may limit our flexibility to operate our business.
Some of the agreements governing our indebtedness contain financial and non-financial covenants. For instance, our unsecured revolving credit facility requires us to comply with certain financial maintenance covenants (measured at the end of each fiscal quarter) including minimum consolidated shareholders’ equity, minimum consolidated unencumbered assets, and an interest coverage test. Complying with such covenants may at times necessitate that we forego other opportunities, including incurring additional indebtedness, declaring or paying certain dividends and distributions or entering into certain transactions, investments, acquisitions, loans, guarantees or advances. Moreover, our failure to comply with any of these covenants could constitute a default and could accelerate some, if not all, of the indebtedness outstanding under such agreements and could create cross-defaults under other debt agreements, which would have a negative effect on our business and our ability to continue as a going concern. In addition, for our secured debt, if we are unable to repay such indebtedness when due and payable, the lenders under our secured debt could proceed against, among other things, the aircraft or other assets securing such indebtedness. As the result of the existence of these financial and non-financial covenants and our need to comply with them, the flexibility we have to operate our business may be limited.
Operational risks relating to our business
We may be unable to generate sufficient returns on our aircraft investments which may have an adverse impact on our net income.
Our business model and results are driven by our ability to acquire strategically attractive commercial passenger aircraft, profitably lease and re-lease them, and finally sell such aircraft in order to generate sufficient revenues to finance our growth and operations, pay our debt service obligations, and meet our other corporate and contractual obligations. We rely on our ability to negotiate and enter into leases with favorable lease terms and to evaluate the ability of lessees to perform their obligations to us prior to receiving the delivery of our orderbook aircraft from the manufacturers. When our leases expire or our aircraft are returned prior to the date contemplated in the lease, we bear the risk of re-leasing or selling the aircraft. Because our leases are predominantly operating leases, only a portion of an aircraft’s value is recovered by the revenues generated from the lease and we may not be able to realize the aircraft’s residual value after lease expiration. Our ability to profitably purchase, lease, re-lease, sell or otherwise dispose of our aircraft will depend on conditions in the airline industry and general market and competitive conditions at the time of purchase, lease and disposition. In addition to factors linked to the aviation industry in general, other factors that may affect our ability to generate adequate returns from our aircraft include the maintenance and operating history of the airframe and engines, the number of operators using the particular type of aircraft, and aircraft age. If we are unable to generate sufficient returns on our aircraft due to any of the above factors within or outside of our control, it may have an adverse impact on our net income.
Failure to close our aircraft acquisition commitments would negatively affect our ability to further grow our fleet and net income.
As of December 31, 2022, we had entered into binding purchase commitments to acquire a total of 398 new aircraft for delivery through 2029. If we are unable to complete the purchase of such aircraft, we would face several risks, including forfeiting deposits and progress payments and having to pay and expense certain significant costs relating to these commitments; not realizing any of the benefits of completing the acquisitions; damage to our reputation and relationship with aircraft manufacturers; and defaulting on our lease commitments, which could result in monetary damages and damage to our reputation and relationships with lessees. If we determine that the capital required to satisfy these commitments is not available on terms we deem attractive, we may eliminate or reduce any then-existing dividend program to preserve capital to apply to such commitments. These risks, whether financial or reputational, would negatively affect our ability to further grow our fleet and net income.
Failure to complete our planned aircraft sales could affect our net income and may lead us to use alternative sources of liquidity.
Proceeds from the sale of aircraft in our owned portfolio help to supplement our liquidity position and contribute to our net income. We currently expect to sell approximately $1.0 billion to $2.0 billion in aircraft in 2023. If we are unable to complete the sales of such aircraft on the timeline anticipated, or at all, it could impact our net income and may lead us to use alternative sources of liquidity to fund our operations such as additional capital markets issuances or borrowings under our revolving credit facility or other debt facilities.
The failure of an aircraft or engine manufacturer to meet its delivery obligations to us may negatively impact our ability to grow our fleet and our earnings.
The supply of commercial aircraft is dominated by a limited number of airframe and engine manufacturers. As a result, we depend on these manufacturers’ ability to remain financially stable, produce products and related components which meet airlines’ demands and regulatory requirements, and fulfill any contractual obligations they have to us, which is in turn dependent on a number of factors over which we have little or no control. Those factors include the availability of raw materials and manufactured components, changes in highly exacting performance requirements and product specifications, economic conditions, changes in the regulatory environment and labor relations and negotiations between manufacturers and their respective workforces. If manufacturers fail to meet their contractual obligations to us, we may experience:
•missed or late aircraft deliveries and potential inability to meet our contractual delivery obligations owed to our lessees, resulting in potential lost or delayed revenues, and strained customer relationships;
•an inability to acquire aircraft and engines resulting in lower growth or contraction of our aircraft fleet;
•reduced demand for a particular manufacturer’s product, which may lead to reduced market lease rates and lower aircraft residual values and may affect our ability to remarket or sell at a profit, or at all, some of the aircraft in our fleet; and
•technical or other difficulties with aircraft or engines after delivery that subject aircraft to operating restrictions or groundings, resulting in a decline in residual value and lease rates of such aircraft and impair our ability to lease or dispose of such aircraft on favorable terms or at all.
There have been well-publicized delivery delays by airframe and engine manufacturers.
For example, we have experienced delivery delays of Boeing and Airbus aircraft due to manufacturing related issues. Although Boeing and Airbus have expressed their desire to increase production rates on several aircraft types, they have yet to meaningfully increase production. At their current production pace, we do not currently see this improving the delivery delay situation through at least 2023. Our leases and purchase agreements with Boeing and Airbus typically provide for cancellation rights starting at one year after the original contractual delivery date, regardless of cause. If there are delivery delays greater than one year for aircraft that we have made future lease commitments, some or all of our affected lessees could elect to cancel their lease with respect to such delayed aircraft. Any such cancellation could strain our relationship with such lessee going forward and would negatively affect our business.
Should the severity of the delivery delays from the manufacturers continue or worsen, or should new delays arise, such delays may negatively impact our ability to grow our fleet and our earnings.
If our aircraft become obsolete or experience a decline in customer demand, our ability to lease and sell those aircraft and our results of operations may be negatively impacted and may result in impairment charges.
Aircraft are long-lived assets, requiring long lead times to develop and manufacture, with models becoming obsolete or less in demand over time, in particular when newer, more advanced aircraft are manufactured.
Our fleet, as well as the aircraft that we have on order, have exposure to a decline in customer demand or obsolescence, particularly if unanticipated events occur which shorten the life cycle of such aircraft types, including: the introduction of superior aircraft or technology, such as new airframes or engines with higher fuel efficiency; the entrance of new manufacturers which could offer aircraft that are more attractive to our target lessees, including manufacturers of alternative technology aircraft; the advent of alternative transportation technologies which could make travel by air less desirable; government regulations, including those limiting noise and emissions and the age of aircraft operating in a jurisdiction; the costs of operating an aircraft, including maintenance which increases with aircraft age; and compliance with airworthiness directives. Obsolescence of certain aircraft may also trigger impairment charges, increase depreciation expense or result in losses related to aircraft asset value guarantees, if we provide such guarantees.
The demand for our aircraft is also affected by other factors outside of our control, including: air passenger demand; air cargo demand; air travel restrictions; airline financial health; changes in fuel costs, interest rates, foreign currency, inflation and general economic conditions; technical problems associated with a particular aircraft model; airport and air traffic control infrastructure constraints; and the availability and cost of financing.
As demand for particular aircraft declines, lease rates for that type of aircraft are likely to correspondingly decline, the residual values of that type of aircraft could be negatively impacted, and we may be unable to lease or sell such aircraft on favorable terms, if
at all. In addition, the risks associated with a decline in demand for a particular aircraft model or type increase if we acquire a high concentration of such aircraft.
If demand declines for a model or type of aircraft of which we own or of which we have a relatively high concentration, or should the aircraft model or type become obsolete, our ability to lease or sell those aircraft and our results of operations may be negatively impacted and may result in impairment charges.
The value and lease rates for aircraft that we own or acquire could decline resulting in an impact to our earnings and cash flows.
From time to time, aircraft values and lease rates have experienced declines due to a variety of factors outside of our control. These factors may impact the aviation industry as a whole or may be more specific to certain types of aircraft in our fleet. For example, the effects of COVID-19 pandemic related travel restrictions, as well as, groundings and aircraft production delays, have each impacted, and may continue to impact lease rates or our ability to lease certain aircraft in our fleet or orderbook. Other factors include, but are not limited to: manufacturer production levels and technological innovation; the number of airlines operating the aircraft; our lessees’ failure to maintain our aircraft; the impact of decisions by the regulatory authority under which the aircraft is operated and any applicable airworthiness directives, service bulletins or other regulatory action that could prevent or limit utilization of the aircraft. As a result of these factors, our earnings and cash flows may be impacted by any decrease in the value of aircraft that we own or acquire or decrease in market rates for leases for these aircraft.
Aircraft have limited economic useful lives and depreciate over time and we may be required to record an impairment charge or sell aircraft for a price less than its depreciated book value which may impact our financial results.
We depreciate our aircraft for accounting purposes on a straight-line basis to the aircraft’s residual value over its estimated useful life. Our management team evaluates on a quarterly basis the need to perform an impairment test whenever facts or circumstances indicate a potential impairment has occurred. An assessment is performed whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of an aircraft may not be recoverable from their expected future undiscounted net cash flow. We develop the assumptions used in the recoverability assessment based on management's knowledge of, and historical experience in, the aircraft leasing market and aviation industry, as well as from information received from third-party industry sources. Factors considered in developing estimates for this assessment include changes in contracted lease rates, economic conditions, technology, and airline demand for a particular aircraft type. Any of our assumptions and estimates may prove to be inaccurate, which could adversely impact forecasted cash flow. In the event that an aircraft does not meet the recoverability test, the aircraft will be recorded at fair value, resulting in an impairment charge. Deterioration of future lease rates and the residual values of our aircraft could result in impairment charges which may have a significant impact on our financial results. The occurrence of unexpected events or changing conditions may also result in impairment charges. For a description of our impairment policy, see the section titled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Critical Accounting Estimates—Flight equipment.”
If we were to record an impairment charge on aircraft, or if we were to dispose of aircraft for a price that is less than its depreciated book value on our balance sheet, it would reduce our total assets and shareholders’ equity. For example, during the year ended December 31, 2022, we recognized a net loss from asset write-offs of our interest in owned and managed aircraft detained in Russia as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict totaling approximately $771.5 million. Depending on the size of the impairment, a reduction in our shareholders’ equity may negatively impact our ability to comply with covenants in certain of our agreements governing our indebtedness requiring us to maintain a minimum net worth and interest coverage ratio, and could result in an event of default under such agreements. For these reasons, our financial results may be impacted.
The Russian-Ukraine conflict and the impact of related sanctions may continue to impact our business.
We terminated our leasing activities and wrote-off our interests in owned and managed aircraft detained in Russia during 2022 due to the Russian-Ukraine conflict and related sanctions, which may continue to impact our business, the business of our airline customers and global macroeconomic conditions. Some of our customers are impacted by closures of Russian and Ukrainian airspace, increases in fuel and energy prices, and disruptions of the global supply chain. Airspace closures have resulted in certain of our airline customers re-routing flights to avoid such airspace which has resulted in increased flight times and fuel costs. Any of these factors could cause our lessees to incur higher costs and to generate lower revenues which could adversely affect their ability to make lease payments which, in turn, could impact our financial results.
A large number of our aircraft are on lease to airlines in China and, therefore, we have concentrated exposure to political, legal and economic risks associated with China and any adverse event involving China may have an adverse effect on our financial condition.
Through our lessees and the countries in which they operate, we are exposed to the specific economic and political conditions and associated risks of those jurisdictions. Approximately 11.4% of our aircraft, based on net book value as of December 31, 2022, are operated by lessees based in China, giving us increased exposure to economic and political conditions in China, as well as changes in government relations between China and the U.S., including trade disputes and trade barriers. We also have an office in Hong Kong and structure certain leases through our Hong Kong subsidiary. Risks related to concentrated exposure can include economic recessions, financial, public health and political emergencies, burdensome local regulations, trade disputes, and in extreme cases, increased risks of requisition of our aircraft and risks of wide-ranging sanctions prohibiting us from leasing flight equipment in certain jurisdictions. An adverse political or economic event in or related to China, or deterioration of government relations between the U.S. and China, could affect the ability of our lessees in China to meet their obligations to us, or expose us to various associated legal or political risks, which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition.
We are dependent on the ability of our lessees to perform their payment and other obligations to us under our leases and their failure to do so may materially and adversely affect our financial results and cash flows.
We generate substantially all of our revenue from leases of aircraft to commercial airlines and our financial performance is driven by the ability of our lessees to perform their payment and other obligations to us under our leases. The airline industry is cyclical, economically sensitive and highly competitive, and our lessees are affected by several factors over which we and they have limited control, including: air passenger demand; changes in fuel costs, interest rates, foreign currency, inflation, labor difficulties, including pilot shortages, wage negotiations or other labor actions; increases in other operating costs, such as increased insurance costs, general economic conditions and governmental regulation and associated fees affecting the air transportation business. In recent years, the airline industry has been substantially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, geopolitical events such as changes in national policy or the imposition of sanctions, including new sanctions, trade barriers or tariffs, as well as events leading to political or economic instability such as war, prolonged armed conflict and acts of terrorism; epidemics, pandemics and natural disasters; availability of financing, including availability of governmental support; airline financial health may also have an impact. Finally, our lessees may also be affected by aircraft accidents, in particular a loss if the aircraft is damaged or destroyed by an event specifically excluded from insurance policies such as dirty bombs, biohazardous materials and electromagnetic pulsing.
These factors could cause our lessees to incur higher costs and to generate lower revenues which could adversely affect their ability to make lease payments. In addition, lease default levels will likely increase over time if economic conditions deteriorate.
A majority of our lessees received lease deferrals or other accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic and we may agree to deferrals, restructurings and terminations in the ordinary course of our business in the future. If a lessee delays, reduces, or fails to make lease payments when due and if we are unable to agree on a lease payment deferral or lease restructuring and we elect to terminate the lease, we may not receive all or any payments still outstanding, and we may be unable to re-lease the aircraft promptly and at favorable rates, if at all. While deferrals generally shift the timing of payments to a later period, restructurings and terminations generally permanently reduce our lease revenue. If we perform a significant number of restructurings and terminations, the associated reduction in lease revenue could materially and adversely affect our financial results and cash flows.
Lessee defaults and reorganizations, bankruptcies or similar proceedings, may result in lost revenues and additional costs.
From time to time, an airline may seek reorganization or protection from creditors under its local laws or may go into liquidation. Some of our lessees have defaulted on their lease obligations or filed for bankruptcy or otherwise sought protection from creditors (collectively referred to as “bankruptcy”). One of our lessees is subject to bankruptcy proceedings as of February 15, 2023 and lessee bankruptcies may increase in the future. Based on historical rates of airline defaults and bankruptcies, we expect that we will experience additional lessee defaults and bankruptcies in the ordinary course of our business.
When a lessee defaults on its lease or files for bankruptcy, we typically incur significant additional costs, including legal and other expenses associated with court or other governmental proceedings. We could also incur substantial maintenance, refurbishment or repair costs if a defaulting lessee fails to pay such costs when necessary to put the aircraft in suitable condition for remarketing or sale. We may also incur storage costs associated with aircraft that we repossess and are unable to place immediately with another lessee, and we may not ultimately be able to re-lease the aircraft at a similar or favorable lease rate. It may also be necessary to pay off
liens including fleet liens, taxes and other governmental charges on the aircraft to obtain clear possession and to remarket the aircraft effectively, including, in some cases, liens that the lessee might have incurred in connection with the operation of its other aircraft. We could also incur other costs in connection with the physical possession of the aircraft.
When a lessee fails to fulfill their obligations under the lease or enters into bankruptcy proceedings, the lessee may not make lease payments or may return aircraft to us before the lease expires. When a lessee files for bankruptcy with the intent of reorganizing its business, we may agree to adjust our lease terms, including reducing lease payments by a significant amount. Certain jurisdictions give rights to the trustee in a bankruptcy to assume or reject the lease or to assign it to a third party, or entitle the lessee or another third party to retain possession of the aircraft without paying lease rentals or performing all or some of the obligations under the relevant lease. If one or more airline bankruptcies result in a larger number of aircraft being available for purchase or lease over a short period of time, aircraft values and aircraft lease rates may be depressed, and additional grounded aircraft and lower market values could adversely affect our ability to sell our aircraft or lease or remarket our aircraft at favorable rates or at all.
Our rights upon a lessee default will vary significantly depending upon the jurisdiction and the applicable law, including the need to obtain a court order for repossession of the aircraft and/or consents for deregistration or export of the aircraft. When a defaulting lessee is in bankruptcy additional limitations may apply. There can be no assurance that jurisdictions that have adopted the Cape Town Convention, which provides for uniformity and certainty for repossession of aircraft, will enforce it as written. In addition, certain of our lessees are owned, in whole or in part, by government-related entities, which could complicate our efforts to repossess our aircraft in that government’s jurisdiction. Accordingly, we may be delayed in, or prevented from, enforcing certain of our rights under a lease and in remarketing the affected aircraft.
If we repossess an aircraft, we may not be able to export or deregister and profitably redeploy the aircraft in a timely manner or at all. Before an aviation authority will register an aircraft that has previously been registered in another country, it must receive confirmation that the aircraft has been deregistered by that country’s aviation authority. In order to deregister an aircraft, the lessee must comply with applicable laws and regulations, and the relevant governmental authority must enforce these laws and regulations. For instance, where a lessee or other operator flies only domestic routes in the jurisdiction in which the aircraft is registered, repossession may be more difficult, especially if the jurisdiction permits the lessee or the other operator to resist deregistration. We may also incur significant costs in retrieving or recreating aircraft records required for registration of the aircraft, and in obtaining a certificate of airworthiness for an aircraft. Upon a lessee default, we may incur significant costs in connection with repossessing our aircraft and we may be delayed in repossessing our aircraft or are unable to obtain possession of our aircraft.
As a result of the time and process involved with lessee defaults, reorganizations, bankruptcies or similar proceedings as described above, which can vary by airline and jurisdiction among other factors, we may experience lost revenues and additional costs.
We may experience increased competition from other aircraft lessors which may impact our ability to execute our long-term strategy.
The aircraft leasing industry is highly competitive. Some of our competitors have greater resources, lower capital costs or provide financial or maintenance services, or other inducements to potential lessees or buyers that we cannot, which could make them able to compete more effectively in certain markets we operate in. In addition, some competitors may have higher risk tolerances, lower investment return expectations or different risk or residual value assessments, which could allow them to consider a wider variety of investments, establish more relationships, bid more aggressively on aviation assets available for sale and offer lower lease rates or sale prices than we can. Our primary competitors are other aircraft leasing companies. The barriers to entry in the aircraft acquisition and leasing market are comparatively low, and new entrants with private equity, hedge fund, or other funding sources appear from time to time.
Lease competition is driven by lease rates, aircraft availability dates, lease terms, relationships, aircraft condition, specifications and configuration of the aircraft necessary to meet the customer’s needs. Competition in the used aircraft market is driven by price, the terms of the lease to which an aircraft is subject and the creditworthiness of the lessee, if any. Our inability to compete successfully with our competitors may impact our ability to execute our long-term strategy.
Our lessees may fail to adequately insure our aircraft or fulfill their indemnity obligations, or we may not be able to adequately insure our aircraft, which may result in increased costs and liabilities.
When an aircraft is on lease, we do not directly control its operation. Nevertheless, because we hold title to the aircraft, we could be sued or held strictly liable for losses resulting from the operation of such aircraft, or may be held liable for losses on other legal theories or claims may be made against us as the owner of an aircraft requiring us to expend resources in our defense. As a result, we separately purchase contingent liability insurance and contingent hull insurance on all aircraft in our owned fleet. While we believe our insurance is adequate both as to coverages and amounts based on industry standards in the current market, we cannot assure you that we are adequately insured against all risks and in all territories in which our aircraft operate. For example, following the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are now generally excluded from coverage in our contingent liability, contingent hull and contingent hull war insurance consistent with insurance market terms available at the time these policies were last renewed.
We also separately require our lessees to obtain specified levels of insurance customary in the aviation industry and indemnify us for, and insure against, liabilities arising out of the lessee’s use and operation of the aircraft. Lessees are also required to maintain public liability, property damage and all risk hull and war risk insurance on the aircraft at agreed upon levels. Some lessees may fail to maintain adequate insurance coverage during a lease term, which, although in contravention of the lease terms, could necessitate our taking some corrective action such as terminating the lease or securing insurance for the aircraft. Moreover, even if our lessees retain specified levels of insurance, and indemnify us for, and insure against, liabilities arising out of their use and operation of the aircraft, we cannot assure you that we will not have any liability.
In addition, there are certain risks or liabilities that we or our lessees may face, for which insurers may be unwilling to provide coverage or the cost to obtain such coverage may be prohibitively expensive. For example, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, aviation insurers significantly reduced the amount of insurance coverage available for claims resulting from acts of terrorism, war, dirty bombs, bio-hazardous materials, electromagnetic pulsing or similar events, and increased the premiums for such third-party war risk and terrorism liability insurance and coverage in general. Similarly, following the Russia-Ukraine conflict, aviation insurers have, in some cases, reduced the scope of insurance coverage provided by policies and increased insurance premiums. Accordingly, our or our lessees’ insurance coverage could be insufficient to cover all claims that could be asserted against us arising from the operation of our aircraft. Inadequate insurance coverage or default by lessees in fulfilling their indemnification or insurance obligations will reduce the proceeds that would be received by us if we are sued and are required to make payments to claimants. Moreover, our lessees’ insurance coverage is dependent on the financial condition of insurance companies, which might not be able to pay claims.
Our or our lessees’ failure to adequately insure our aircraft, or our lessees’ failure to fulfill their indemnity obligations to us, could reduce insurance proceeds otherwise payable to us in certain cases, may result in increased costs and liabilities for our business.
We may experience the death, incapacity or departure of one of our key officers which may negatively impact our business.
We believe that our senior management’s reputation and relationships with lessees, manufacturers, buyers and financiers of aircraft are a critical element to the success of our business. We depend on the diligence, skill and network of business contacts of our management team. Our future success will depend, to a significant extent, upon the continued service of our senior management team, particularly: Mr. Udvar-Házy, our founder, and Executive Chairman of the Board; Mr. Plueger, our Chief Executive Officer and President; and our other senior officers, each of whose services are critical to the success of our business strategies. We do not have employment agreements with Mr. Udvar-Házy or Mr. Plueger for their services at Air Lease Corporation, although one of our Irish subsidiaries has limited duration employment agreements under which Mr. Udvar-Házy or Mr. Plueger may terminate their employment at any time. If we were to lose the services of any of the members of our senior management team, it may negatively impact our business.
A cyberattack could lead to a material disruption of our information technology (“IT”) systems or the IT systems of our third-party providers and the loss of business information, which may hinder our ability to conduct our business effectively and may result in lost revenues and additional costs.
We depend on our and our third-party provider’s IT systems to conduct our operations. Such systems are subject to damage or interruption from power outages, computer and telecommunications failures, computer viruses, security breaches, ransomware attacks, social-engineering attacks (including through phishing attacks), malicious code (such as viruses and worms), malware (including as a result of advanced persistent threat intrusions), fire and natural disasters. In particular, severe ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent and can lead to significant interruptions in our operations, loss of sensitive data and income, reputational harm,
and diversion of funds. Extortion payments may alleviate the negative impact of a ransomware attack, but we may be unwilling or unable to make such payments due to, for example, applicable laws or regulations prohibiting such payments. Damage or interruption to such IT systems may require significant investment to fix or replace, and we may suffer operational interruptions. Potential interruptions associated with the implementation of new or upgraded systems and technology or with maintenance of existing systems could also disrupt or reduce operational efficiency. Remote work has become more common and has increased risks to our information technology systems and data, as more of our employees utilize network connections, computers and devices outside our premises or network, including working at home and while traveling.
Parts of our business depend on the secure operation of our and our third-party providers’ IT systems to manage, process, store, and transmit aircraft leasing information. We have, from time to time, experienced threats to our data and systems, including malware and computer virus attacks. A cyberattack could adversely impact our daily operations and lead to the loss of sensitive information, including our proprietary information and that of our customers, suppliers and employees. Such losses could harm our reputation and result in competitive disadvantages, litigation, regulatory enforcement actions, lost revenues, reputational harm, interruptions in our operations, additional costs and liabilities. Applicable data privacy and security obligations may also require us to notify relevant stakeholders of cyberattacks. Such disclosures are costly, and the disclosure or the failure to comply with such requirements could lead to adverse consequences. While we devote substantial resources to maintaining adequate levels of cyber-security, our resources and technical sophistication may be unable to prevent all types of cyberattacks. We take steps to detect and remediate vulnerabilities in our IT systems, but we may not be able to detect and remediate all vulnerabilities because the threats and techniques used to exploit the vulnerability change frequently and are often sophisticated in nature. Therefore, such vulnerabilities could be exploited but may not be detected until after a cyberattack has occurred. These vulnerabilities pose material risks to our business. Further, we may experience delays in developing and deploying remedial measures designed to address any such identified vulnerabilities. A cyberattack leading to a significant disruption of our IT systems or of those of our third-party providers may negatively affect our ability to conduct our business effectively and may result in lost revenues and additional costs.
Conflicts of interest between us and clients utilizing our fleet management services could arise which may result in legal challenges or reputational harm.
Conflicts of interest may arise between us and customers from our managed business who hire us to perform fleet management services such as leasing, remarketing, lease management and sales services. These conflicts may arise because services we provide for these clients are also services which we provide for our own fleet, including placement of aircraft with lessees. Our current fleet management services agreements provide that we will use our reasonable commercial efforts in providing services. Nevertheless, despite these contractual waivers, competing with our fleet management clients in practice may result in strained relationships with them. Any conflicts of interest that arise between us and the clients which utilize our fleet management services may result in legal challenges or reputational harm to our business.
We may encounter disputes, deadlock or other conflicts of interest with investment partners of entities in which we have minority interests and for which we serve as manager of the aircraft owned by the entities which may result in legal challenges, reputational harm or loss of fee income.
We own non-controlling interests in entities that invest in aircraft and lease them to airlines or facilitate the sale and continued management of aircraft assets. Additionally, we may also acquire interests in similar entities controlled by third parties in order to take advantage of favorable financing opportunities or tax benefits, to share capital and/or operating risk, and/or to earn fleet management fees. Such interests involve significant risks that may not be present with other methods of ownership, including that:
•we may not realize a satisfactory return on our investment;
•the investment may divert management’s attention from our core business;
•our investment partners could have investment goals that are not consistent with our investment objectives, including the timing, terms and strategies for any investments;
•our investment partners may fail to fund their share of required capital contributions or fulfill their other obligations; and
•our investment partners may have competing interests in our markets that could create conflict of interest issues, particularly if aircraft owned by the applicable investment entity are being marketed for lease or sale at a time when we also have comparable aircraft available for lease or sale.
The agreements governing these entities typically provide the non-managing investment partner certain veto rights over various significant actions and the right to remove us as the manager under certain circumstances. If we were to be removed as the manager
from a managed fleet portfolio, our reputation may be harmed and we would lose the benefit of future management fees. In addition, we might reach an impasse that could require us to dissolve the investment entity at a time and in a manner that could result in our losing some or all of our original investment in such entity, which may result in losses on our investment and potential legal challenges or reputational harm.
Macroeconomic and global risks relating to our business
Events outside of our control, including the threat or realization of epidemic diseases such as the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, war or armed hostilities between countries or non-state actors, may adversely affect the demand for air travel, the financial condition of our lessees and of the aviation industry more broadly, and may ultimately impact our business.
Air travel has historically been disrupted, sometimes severely, by the occurrence of unexpected events outside of our and our lessees control. As noted above, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom and others has adversely affected our business and financial condition. For the year ended December 31, 2022, we recorded a net write-off of our interests in our owned and managed aircraft that are detained in Russia totaling approximately $771.5 million. The COVID-19 pandemic has recently impacted air travel and our results of operations. According to IATA, December 2022 global domestic and international passenger traffic was 20% and 25%, respectively, lower compared to December 2019 passenger volume. As of December 31, 2022, we had $148.1 million in outstanding deferred rentals. In addition to lease deferral arrangements, we have from time to time agreed to restructure some of our lease agreements. As part of our lease restructuring agreements, we have typically modified our existing leases by extending the lease term and reducing our lease rates. We have also experienced and may still experience other impacts from COVID-19, including weaker demand for used aircraft, defaults, bankruptcies or reorganizations of our lessees, delays in delivery of aircraft, declines in placements of aircraft in our orderbook, and increased costs of borrowing. While we cannot currently reasonably estimate the extent to which these events will continue to impact our business, we expect our business, results of operations and financial condition will continue to be negatively impacted in the near term.
In addition to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, passenger demand for air travel has also been negatively impacted in the past by other epidemic diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, bird flu, swine flu, the Zika virus, and Ebola. Future epidemic diseases and other diseases, or the fear of such events could provoke responses that negatively affect passenger air travel. Air travel has also been disrupted in the past by terrorist attacks, war or armed hostilities between countries or non-state actors, including the fear of such events, and the occurrence of natural disasters and other natural phenomena, such as extreme weather conditions, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, which may become more frequent or severe as a result of climate change.
The occurrence of any such event, or multiple such events, could cause our lessees to experience decreased passenger demand, to incur higher costs and to generate lower revenues, which could adversely affect their ability to make lease payments to us or to obtain the types and amounts of insurance we require. This in turn could lead to lease restructurings and repossessions, impair our ability to remarket or otherwise dispose of aircraft on favorable terms or at all, or reduce the proceeds we receive for our aircraft in a disposition which may ultimately impact our business.
Aircraft oversupply in the industry could decrease the value and lease rates of the aircraft in our fleet resulting in an impact to our earnings and cash flows.
The aircraft leasing business has experienced periods of aircraft oversupply at various times in the past, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and during the period following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The oversupply of a specific type of aircraft is likely to depress the lease rates for, and the value of, that type of aircraft, including upon sale. Further, over recent years, the airline industry has committed to a significant number of aircraft deliveries through order placements with manufacturers, and in response, aircraft manufacturers have generally raised their production output. Increases in production levels could result in an oversupply of relatively new aircraft if growth in airline traffic does not meet airline industry expectations. Additionally, if overall lending capacity to purchasers of aircraft does not increase in line with the increased aircraft production levels, the cost of lending or ability to obtain debt to finance aircraft purchases could be negatively affected. Oversupply may produce sharp and prolonged decreases in market lease rates and residual values and may affect our ability to remarket or sell at a profit, or at all, some of the aircraft in our fleet which would impact our earnings and cash flows.
Export restrictions and tariffs may impact where we can place and deliver our aircraft and negatively impact our ability to execute on our long-term strategy.
Existing export restrictions impact where we can place and deliver our aircraft. New export restrictions, including those implemented quickly or as a result of geopolitical events, may impact where we can place and deliver our aircraft or the ability of our lessees to operate our aircraft in certain jurisdictions, which may negatively impact our earnings and cash flows. For example, in early 2022, in connection with the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the United States, European Union, United Kingdom and others imposed economic sanctions and export controls against certain industry sectors and parties in Russia. These sanctions include closures of airspace for aircraft operated by Russian airlines, bans on the leasing or sale of aircraft to Russian controlled entities, bans on the export and re-export of aircraft and aircraft components to Russian controlled entities or for use in Russia, and corresponding prohibitions on providing technical assistance, brokering services, insurance and reinsurance, as well as financing or financial assistance. In response to such actions, in March 2022 we terminated all of our leasing activities in Russia.
Tariffs can also impact our ability to place and deliver aircraft. Our leases are primarily structured as triple net leases, whereby the lessee is responsible for all operating costs including the costs associated with the importation of the aircraft. As a result, increased tariffs will result in a higher cost for imported aircraft that our lessees may not be willing to assume and which could adversely impact demand for aircraft, creating an oversupply of aircraft and potentially placing downward pressure on lease rates and aircraft market values.
For example, in October 2019, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced a 10% tariff on new aircraft imported from Europe, including Airbus aircraft. In March 2020, the tariffs on aircraft were raised to 15%. In November 2020, the E.U. announced a 15% tariff on new aircraft imported into the E.U. from the U.S., including Boeing aircraft. In June 2021, the U.S. and the E.U. agreed to temporarily suspend all retaliatory tariffs related to new aircraft imports for five years.
We cannot predict what further actions may ultimately be taken with respect to export controls, tariffs or trade relations between the U.S. and other countries. Accordingly, it is difficult to predict exactly how, and to what extent, such actions may impact our business, or the business of our lessees or aircraft manufacturers. Any unfavorable government policies on international trade, such as export controls, capital controls or tariffs, may affect the demand for aircraft from our orderbook, increase the cost of aircraft components, delay production, impact the competitive position of certain aircraft manufacturers or prevent aircraft manufacturers from being able to sell aircraft in certain countries. In turn, this may impact where we can place and deliver our aircraft which may negatively impact our ability to execute on our long-term strategy.
We are subject to the economic and political risks associated with doing business around the world, including in emerging markets, which may expose our business to heightened risks and negatively impact our earnings and cash flows.
The emerging market countries in which we operate could face economic and geopolitical challenges and may experience significant fluctuations in gross domestic product, interest rates and currency exchange rates, as well as civil disturbances, government instability, nationalization and expropriation of private assets and the imposition of unexpected taxes or other charges by government authorities. This can result in economic and political instability which could negatively affect the ability of our lessees to meet their lease obligations leading to higher default rates, which could cause us to record asset write-offs. For example, during the year ended December 31, 2022, we recognized a net loss from asset-write-offs of our interests in owned and managed aircraft detained in Russia as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict totaling approximately $771.5 million. We also may experience challenges in leasing or re-leasing aircraft in markets experiencing economic instability. In addition, legal systems in all markets in which we operate may have different liability standards, which could make it more difficult for us to enforce our legal rights in such countries, while legal systems in emerging market countries may also be less developed and less predictable. Doing business in countries around the world, including in emerging markets, has and may continue to expose our business to heightened risks and negatively impact our earnings and cash flows.
Changes in fuel costs could negatively affect our lessees and by extension the demand for our aircraft which may impact our ability to execute on our long-term strategy.
Historically, fuel prices have fluctuated widely depending primarily on international market conditions, geopolitical and environmental events, and currency exchange rates. The cost of fuel represents a major expense to airlines that is not within their control, and significant increases in fuel costs or hedges that inaccurately assess the direction of fuel costs can adversely affect their operating results. Due to the competitive nature of the aviation industry, operators may be unable to pass on increases in fuel prices to
their customers by increasing fares in a manner that fully offsets increased fuel costs. In addition, they may not be able to manage this risk by appropriately hedging their exposure to fuel price fluctuations. Airlines that do hedge their fuel costs can also be adversely affected by swift movements in fuel prices if such airlines are required as a result to post cash collateral under hedge agreements. Therefore, if fuel prices materially increase or show significant volatility, our lessees are likely to incur higher costs or generate lower revenues, which may affect their ability to meet their obligations to us. A sustained period of lower fuel costs may also adversely affect regional economies that depend on oil revenue, including those in which certain of our lessees operate. Should changes in fuel costs negatively affect our lessees or demand for our aircraft, our ability to execute our long-term strategy may be impacted.
The appreciation of the U.S. dollar could negatively impact our lessees’ ability to honor the terms of their leases, which are generally denominated in U.S. dollars, and may result in lost revenues and reduced net income.
Many of our lessees are exposed to currency risk due to the fact that they earn revenues in their local currencies while a significant portion of their liabilities and expenses are denominated in U.S. dollars, including their lease payments to us, as well as fuel, debt service, and other expenses. For the year ended December 31, 2022, more than 95% of our revenues were derived from customers who have their principal place of business outside the U.S. and most leases designated payment currency is U.S. dollars. The ability of our lessees to make lease payments to us in U.S. dollars may be adversely impacted in the event of an appreciating U.S. dollar. This is particularly true for non-U.S. airlines whose operations are primarily domestic. Shifts in foreign exchange rates can be significant, are difficult to predict, and can occur quickly as evidenced by the significant appreciation of the U.S. dollar in 2022. Should our lessees be unable to honor the terms of their leases due to the appreciation of the U.S. dollar, we may experience lost revenues and reduced net income.
Regulatory, tax and legal risks relating to our business
Income and other taxes could negatively affect our business and operating results due to our multi-jurisdictional operations.
We operate in multiple jurisdictions and may become subject to a wide range of income and other taxes. If we are unable to execute our business in jurisdictions with favorable tax treatment, our operations may be subject to significant income and other taxes. Moreover, as our aircraft are operated by our lessees in multiple states and foreign jurisdictions, we may have nexus or taxable presence as a result of our aircraft landings in various states or foreign jurisdictions. Such landings may result in us being subject to various foreign, state and local taxes in such states or foreign jurisdictions. Further, any changes in tax laws in any of the jurisdictions that subject us to income or other taxes, such as increases in tax rates or limitations on our ability to deduct certain expenses from taxable income, such as depreciation expense and interest expense, could materially affect our tax obligations and effective tax rate. To the extent such changes are within the United States, we may be disproportionately impacted as compared to our competitor aircraft lessors. For example, certain provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that phased into effect in 2022 may limit our ability to deduct interest expense from taxable income in future financial statements. Further, in August 2022, United States Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The key tax provisions applicable to us are a 15% corporate minimum tax on adjusted book income and a 1% excise tax on stock repurchases effective January 1, 2023. We currently do not expect these changes to have a material impact on our financial position; however, we will continue to evaluate the impact as further information becomes available.
Environmental regulations, fees, taxes and reporting, and other concerns may negatively affect demand for our aircraft, reduce travel and ultimately impact the operating results of our customers.
The airline industry is subject to increasingly stringent and evolving federal, state and local environmental laws, regulations, fees, taxes and reporting of air emissions, water surface and subsurface discharges, safe drinking water, aircraft noise, the management of hazardous substances, oils and waste materials and other regulations affecting aircraft operations. Governmental regulations and reporting regarding aircraft and engine noise and emissions levels apply based on where the relevant aircraft is registered and operated. These regulations, as well as the potential for new and more stringent regulations, could limit the economic life of aircraft and engines, reduce their value, limit our ability to lease or sell the non-compliant aircraft and engines or, if engine modifications are permitted, require us to make significant additional investments in the aircraft and engines to make them compliant. Further, compliance with current or future regulations, fees, taxes and reporting imposed to address environmental concerns could cause our lessees to incur higher costs and to generate lower revenues, which could adversely affect their ability to make lease payments to us.
The airline industry has come under scrutiny by the press, public and investors regarding environmental impacts of air travel. If such scrutiny results in reduced air travel, it may negatively affect demand for our aircraft, lessees’ ability to make lease payments and reduce the value we receive for our aircraft upon sale. In addition, increased focus on the environmental impact of air travel has led to the emergence of numerous sustainability initiatives, including the development of sustainable aviation fuel, and electric and hydrogen
powered aircraft. While these sustainability initiatives are in the early stages of development, if alternative aircraft technology develops to the point of commercial viability and become widely accepted, we may not be able to adjust our orderbook in a timely manner and could be required to incur increased costs and significant capital investments to transition to such technology.
Climate change may have a long-term impact on our business.
There are inherent climate-related risks wherever our business is conducted. Changes in market dynamics, stakeholder expectations, local, national and international climate change policies, could disrupt our business and operations. Various countries, including the United States and the European Union, have announced sustainability initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, explore sustainable aviation fuels and establish sustainability measures and targets. Climate and environmental objectives may impact the types of aircraft we target for investment and the demand for certain aircraft and engine types, and could result in a significant increase in our costs and expenses and adversely affect future revenue, cash flows and financial performance. Failure to address climate change could result in greater exposure to economic and other risks and impact our ability to adhere to developing climate goals.
Environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) matters may impose additional costs and expose us to new risks.
Public ESG and sustainability reporting is becoming more broadly expected by investors, shareholders, regulatory agencies and other third parties. Certain organizations that provide corporate governance and other corporate risk information to investors have developed, and others may in the future develop, scores and ratings to evaluate companies and investment funds based upon ESG or “sustainability” metrics. Many investment funds focus on positive ESG business practices and sustainability scores when making investments and may consider a company’s ESG or sustainability scores as a reputational or other factor in making an investment decision. In addition, investors, particularly institutional investors, use these scores to benchmark companies against their peers and if a company is perceived as lagging, these investors may engage with such company to improve ESG disclosure or performance and may also make voting decisions, or take other actions, to hold these companies and their boards of directors accountable. Board diversity is an ESG topic that is, in particular, receiving heightened attention by investors, shareholders, lawmakers and listing exchanges. We may also face reputational damage in the event our corporate responsibility initiatives or objectives, including with respect to board diversity, do not meet the standards set by our investors, shareholders, lawmakers, listing exchanges or other constituencies, or if we are unable to achieve an acceptable ESG or sustainability rating from third party rating services.
Risks and requirements related to transacting business in foreign countries may result in increased liabilities including penalties and fines as well as reputational harm.
Our international operations expose us to trade and economic sanctions and other restrictions imposed by the United States or other governments or organizations. The U.S. Departments of Justice, Commerce, State and Treasury, and other foreign authorities have a broad range of civil and criminal penalties they may seek to impose against corporations and individuals for violations of economic sanctions laws, export control laws, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and other federal statutes and regulations, including the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and those established by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), laws and regulations applicable to our operations in Ireland and Hong Kong and, increasingly, similar or more restrictive foreign laws, rules and regulations, including the U.K. Bribery Act (“UKBA”), which may also apply to us. Under these laws and regulations, the government may require export licenses, or impose restrictions that would require modifications to business practices, including cessation of business activities in sanctioned countries or with sanctioned persons or entities, and modifications to compliance programs, which may increase compliance costs. Failure to implement changes may subject us to fines, penalties and other sanctions.
We have in place training programs for our employees with respect to FCPA, OFAC, UKBA, export controls and similar laws and regulations, but we cannot assure that our employees, consultants, sales agents, or associates will not engage in unlawful conduct for which we may be held responsible or that our business partners will not engage in conduct that could affect their ability to perform their contractual obligations and result in our being held liable for such conduct. Violation of laws or regulations may result in increased liabilities including penalties and fines as well as reputational harm.
A lessee’s failure to obtain required licenses, consents and approvals could negatively affect our ability to remarket or sell aircraft.
Airlines are subject to extensive regulation in the jurisdictions in which they are registered and operate. As a result, we expect some of our leases will require licenses, consents or approvals, including consents from governmental or regulatory authorities for certain payments under our leases and for the import, export or deregistration of aircraft. Subsequent changes in applicable law or administrative practice may require additional licenses and consents or result in revocation of prior licenses and consents.
Furthermore, consents needed in connection with our repossession or sale of an aircraft may be withheld. Any of these events could negatively affect our ability to remarket or sell aircraft.
Data privacy risks, including evolving laws, regulations, and other obligations and compliance efforts, may result in business interruption and increased costs and liabilities.
Laws, regulations and other obligations (including applicable guidance, industry standards, external and internal privacy and security policies and contractual requirements) relating to personal data constantly evolve, as federal, state and foreign governments continue to adopt new measures addressing data privacy and processing (including collection, storage, transfer, disposal, disclosure, security and use) of personal data, and the interpretation and application of many existing privacy and data protection laws and regulations in the U.S., Europe (including the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act, as amended (“CCPA”)) and elsewhere impose stringent obligations. For example, the CCPA, which applies to business representative and other types of personal data, provides for civil penalties of up to $7,500 per violation and allows private litigants affected by certain data breaches to recover significant statutory damages. Such laws and regulations may be interpreted or applied in a manner that is inconsistent with each other and may complicate our existing data management practices. Evolving compliance and operational requirements under the privacy laws of the jurisdictions in which we operate, regulations, and other obligations have become increasingly burdensome and complex. Privacy-related claims or lawsuits initiated by governmental bodies, customers or other third parties, irrespective of the merits, could be time consuming, result in costly enforcement actions (including regulatory proceedings, investigations, fines, penalties, audits, and inspections), litigation (including class action claims), penalties and fines, require us to change our business practices or cause business interruptions and may lead to administrative, civil, or criminal liability.
General risk factors relating to investment in our stock
Provisions in Delaware law and our restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws may inhibit a takeover of us, which could entrench management or cause the price of our Class A common stock to decline.
Our restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws contain provisions that may discourage unsolicited takeover proposals that stockholders consider to be in their best interests, including the ability of our board of directors to issue new series of preferred stock, prohibitions on stockholders calling special meetings, and advance notice requirements for stockholder proposals and director nominations. Further, we have not opted out of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which prohibits a public Delaware corporation from engaging in certain business combinations with an “interested stockholder” (as defined in such section) for three years following the time that such stockholder became an interested stockholder without the prior consent of our board of directors. Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, and these charter and bylaws provisions, may make the removal of our management more difficult, impede a merger or other business combination or discourage a potential acquirer from making a tender offer for our Class A common stock, which could reduce the market price of our Class A common stock.
Our amended and restated bylaws provide that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum for substantially all disputes between us and our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or other employees or stockholders.
Our amended and restated bylaws provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is the sole and exclusive forum for (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought on behalf of us, (ii) any action or proceeding asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any of our current or former directors, officers or other employees or stockholders, (iii) any action asserting a claim arising pursuant to any provision of the Delaware General Corporation Law, or our restated certificate of incorporation or amended and restated bylaws, or as to which the Delaware General Corporation Law confers jurisdiction on the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, or (iv) any action asserting a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine. This exclusive forum provision is intended to apply to claims arising under Delaware state law and would not apply to claims brought pursuant to the Exchange Act of 1934 or Securities Act of 1933, each as amended, or any other claim for which the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction. The exclusive forum provision in our amended and restated bylaws will not relieve us of our duties to comply with the federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder, and our stockholders will not be deemed to have waived our compliance with these laws, rules and regulations. The exclusive forum provision in our amended and restated bylaws may limit a stockholder's ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum of its choosing for disputes with us or our directors, officers or other employees or stockholders, which may discourage lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and other employees and stockholders. In addition, stockholders who do bring a claim in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware could face additional litigation costs in pursuing any such claim, particularly if they do not reside in or near Delaware. The Court of
Chancery of the State of Delaware may also reach different judgments or results than would other courts, including courts where a stockholder would otherwise choose to bring the action, and such judgments or results may be more favorable to us than to our stockholders. However, the enforceability of similar exclusive forum provisions in other companies' certificates of incorporation has been challenged in legal proceedings, and it is possible that a court could find this type of provision to be inapplicable to, or unenforceable in respect of, one or more of the specified types of actions or proceedings. If a court were to find the exclusive forum provision contained in our amended and restated bylaws to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we might incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions.
Future offerings of debt or equity securities by us may adversely affect the market price of our Class A common stock.
We may obtain financing or further increase our capital resources by issuing additional shares of Class A common stock, or more series of our preferred stock, or offering debt or additional equity securities, including commercial paper, medium-term notes, senior or subordinated notes, or new convertible or preferred securities. Issuing additional shares of Class A common stock or other equity may dilute the economic and voting rights of our existing stockholders or reduce the market price of our Class A common stock. Upon liquidation, holders of our debt securities, our outstanding preferred stock, and any new series of preferred stock, if issued, and lenders with respect to other borrowings, would receive a distribution of our available assets prior to the holders of our Class A common stock. Our outstanding preferred stock have preferences with respect to liquidating distributions and dividend payments which limits our ability to pay dividends to our Class A common stockholders, subject to certain conditions. Any new series of preferred stock could have similar or different preferences. Our decision to issue securities in the future will depend on market conditions and we cannot predict the amount, timing or nature of such issuances, which could be dilutive to Class A stockholders and reduce the market price of our Class A common stock.
We may not be able to continue, or may elect to discontinue, paying dividends which may adversely affect our stock price.
Current dividends may not be indicative of future dividends, and our ability to continue to pay or increase dividends to our shareholders is subject to our board of director’s discretion and depends on: our ability to comply with covenants imposed by our financing agreements and our outstanding preferred stock, that limit our ability to pay dividends and make certain restricted payments; difficulties in raising additional capital and our ability to finance our aircraft acquisition commitments; our ability to re-finance our long-term debt before it matures; our ability to negotiate favorable lease rates and other contractual terms; demand for our aircraft; the economic condition of the commercial aviation industry generally; the financial condition and liquidity of our lessees; unexpected or increased expenses; the level and timing of aircraft investments, principal repayments and other capital needs; the value of our fleet; our results of operations and general business conditions; legal restrictions on the payment of dividends and other factors that our board of directors deems relevant. In the future we may elect not to pay dividends, be unable to pay dividends or maintain or increase our current level of dividends, which may negatively affect our stock price.
Future sales of our Class A common stock by our directors, executive officers or significant stockholders, or the perception these sales may occur, may cause our stock price to decline.
If our directors, executive officers or other affiliates, sell substantial amounts of our Class A common stock in the public market, or are perceived as intending to sell, the price of our Class A common stock could decline. Shares of our Class A common stock underlying any outstanding restricted stock units are reserved for issuance under the Air Lease Corporation 2014 Equity Incentive Plan and have been registered on Form S-8 under the Securities Act, and will become eligible for sale in the public markets upon vesting, subject to Rule 144 limitations applicable to affiliates or the registration of the resale with the SEC. Sale of these shares could impair our ability to raise capital through the sale of equity or equity related securities. In addition, a significant number of shares of our Class A common stock may be sold in the public market by any selling stockholders listed in a prospectus we may file with the SEC and such sales, or the perception they may occur, could adversely affect prices for our Class A common stock.