Middle East lessor Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) has ordered 20 ATR 72-600s and taken options on another 20, marking its first step into regional aircraft leasing.

DAE, which has a $3.3 billion portfolio including Airbus A320s, Boeing 737s, A330s and 777s, is scheduled to take delivery of the ATRs in 2015-18.

Announcing the deal at the Singapore Airshow, DAE managing director Khalifa AlDaboos said the USD988 million deal was “just the beginning” and that he hopes to “do more” with ATR.

“We aim to diversify our portfolio and expand into regional aircraft to meet an increasing demand from airlines that are developing regional air connectivity. ATRs are today operated by some 190 carriers all over the world, and this is clearly providing us with many potential opportunities to place this new fleet of regional aircraft,” he said.

AlDaboos already has customers lined up for the 20 firm-ordered aircraft, and DAE will take a decision on whether to exercise the 20 options during 2014.

DAE, which is active in aircraft leasing and MRO services, will take the aircraft in a single-class configuration.

In 2011, DAE canceled orders for a number of aircraft, including 70 A320s, 30 A350s and 35 737NGs.

AlDaboos said DAE is not planning to announce any further orders during this week’s Singapore Airshow.