Airfinance Journal Interview: One voice for lessors

To understand why Ireland's aircraft lessors need their own representative body, SMBC Aviation Capital (SMBC AC) chief operating officer David Swan points to the 'chaos' that resulted from Brazil's decision to designate Ireland as a tax haven in September 2016.

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While the move may have been motivated by the Brazilian government's desire to stop Brazilian companies offshoring some bases to Ireland, an "unintended consequence" was that "almost immediately" aircraft lessors faced a 25% withholding tax being applied to the rent on their aircraft placed in the Latin American country, Swan explains.

"When that happened, overnight you had the chaos of leasing companies contacting the departments of finance, foreign affairs, embassies - everyone - and it was just chaotic," Swan tells Airfinance Journal.

It was during this time that Swan questioned why the lessor community did not have its own dedicated association to tackle such issues.

"I thought it was crazy. IATA had been around for so long and there was no IATA for lessors," he says.

The desire to avoid such uncoordinated action in the future was a major motivation behind Swan's efforts to bring the lessor community in Ireland together to establish its own dedicated industry body.

Those efforts came to fruition with the establishment of Aircraft leasing Ireland (ALI) in 2018, an organisation made up of lessors either based in Ireland or with significant operations located in the country.

Initially formed of 11 lessors, ALI now has more than 30 members, including GECAS, Avolon and Aercap. Swan was elected as ALI's first chairman.

ALI is now co-ordinating the lessor's response with regard to Brazil and Swan says that the same will happen in any future situtions of this kind.

"Only ALI has to send letters to the right departments in Brazil and Ireland and educate ministers here so they get it sorted," he says.

For a sector that contributes $660 million annually to the Irish economy and supports 5,000 direct and indirect jobs, Swan says the creation of a dedicated body to champion it was long overdue.