Heading into the homestretch of 2013, the upbeat mood that ushered in the new year has been building into the summer step-climb that gets a catapult shot–courtesy of the NBAA convention–to finish out the year. Someone must have hit the “on” switch after Labor Day weekend in early September, bringing buyers back into the market en masse. While deals have abounded in all model segments for some time, the recent activity is a strong sign of buyer confidence. From top to bottom aircraft are moving, and it’s no wonder considering how low prices have dropped.
The annual NBAA convention routinely serves as an appropriate time to reflect on activity in the pre-owned market for both light jets and single-engine turboprops. As we look back at the year that has passed, it’s fair to say that while these markets have not set any blistering records, some calm is in the air.
The Paris Air Show attracts not just buyers and sellers of aircraft and related equipment, but also the buyers and sellers of the companies that make them. The aerospace and defense sectors have been hotbeds of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in recent years, and the bankers who guide and cajole these deals have once again flocked to Le Bourget.
With one quarter of the year in the rear-view mirror, the pre-owned market enters one of its historically busier quarters, and with some key economic indicators showing improvement, this year may be setting up to be busier than many recent ones. So many aircraft values have done nothing but fall for nearly five years. Now some are showing signs of resisting that perennial trend. A number of segments continue to edge ever closer toward right pricing, but others have fallen so far that they are beginning to move quickly.
If past is prologue, expect an uptick in business aviation flight activity next March. That’s one of the conclusions drawn from an Argus Market Intelligence report released at the NBAA Convention. The report analyzes the last three years of the company’s TraqPak flight activity data, including its FlightView aircraft movement and JetNet aircraft ownership information.
The manufacturer and operator of the S-64 Air-Crane raised $31.9 million from its long-awaited April initial public stock offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq exchange and narrowed its latest quarterly operating loss to $1.7 million. Erickson said its backlog is $207.9 million, and it expects to make deliveries representing $84 million of that total this year.
An old axiom for Wall Street players advises to “sell in May and go away” and clearly most investors would have done well to follow that advice last year, as the stock market began a several-month slide. The correlation of the stock market to the vitality of the aircraft market is easy to see when looking at used inventory levels from May and June a year ago and the ups and downs experienced since then.
Someone with more energy than I have is one day going to come up with a gauge that will accurately forecast the direction of aircraft sales just as the list of leading economic indicators predicts the future direction of the economy. Most of us in the industry seem to use our gut instincts to figure out where we are headed, but every day we get bankable hints. One of our sales directors mentioned to me the other day that exclusive aircraft listings are becoming harder to get, adding, “I think that’s probably a good thing.” He’s probably right.
Uncertainty. It’s a word that packs a lot of fear and indecision into four syllables, and one that has continued to burden not only the U.S. economy but that of the world as well.
While the pre-owned market has had to grind it out over the last couple of years to turn a deal, buyers have made a considerable dent in the number of choices since then, with 500 fewer aircraft available compared with the number of choices at the peak. As the industry heads into what is typically one of the most active periods of the year, the trend should continue.
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