Lawyer Aoife O’Sullivan is a partner at London-headquartered Kennedys, an international law firm, and has rapidly become a respected and passionate advocate of business aviation and a much sought after speaker around the world. She heads a worldwide team of 60 attorneys and finance experts, covering not only business aviation but commercial airlines, military aerospace, even satellites.
As O’Sullivan puts it, her team is a team of insiders, “involved in real deals and transactions” and making her opinions and insight highly valued.
“Deals are happening for sure and over the past six months it has become extremely busy,” O’Sullivan says. “We’re seeing a lot more finance deals whereas last year it was pretty well all cash deals.” The Kennedys team is involved in six to seven aircraft transactions per month, with a conservative estimate of around 50 to 60 aircraft per year.
“This number is going up as the team grows,” O’Sullivan says. “We come in on all sides, you see, so our contribution to a deal might be acting for a buyer or a seller, bank or operator.” She says that all of her firm’s transactions are for midsize to large aircraft.
“The quickest off the mark in terms of clients getting credit approval are for the big jets and the sweet spot is between $30 million and $45 million,” she says.
“All the banks that we know and love are all chasing the same deals and quoting similar rates,” she told ShowNews.
“Nothing new in that but I think the difficult side of it is as you get down the pyramid into the older smaller aircraft. We’re really having issues with aircraft that are seven years and older and priced around the $5 million to $10 million mark.”
O’Sullivan reckons that part of the difficulty for some of these second- or third-time sale aircraft is how the banks perceive some of the more difficult (aviation authority) jurisdictions. “It would be a lot easier to justify the second sale into the UK say or the first sale into Dubai rather than the third sale into some of the countries in Africa,” she says. “Nigeria is an exception in Africa as it’s a great jurisdiction to deal with. Nigeria doesn’t have an issue with finance either – we’ve done quite a few deals there in the last 18 months.
“They’re nice clean aircraft, they’ve been managed sensibly – their attitude to business aircraft is that the aircraft are for business and not for luxury travel – and financiers like that.”