SMFL buying stake in Libra Group aviation subsidiary

Asian Aviation
The Airbus H160. (PHOTO: Airbus)

SeoulLibra Group, a privately owned international business group whose subsidiaries own and operate assets in nearly 60 countries, announced that Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing Co., Ltd. (SMFL) has agreed to acquire a 35 percent stake in its aviation subsidiary, LCI. Additionally, SMFL and Libra Group plan to grow LCI’s business by US$1.5 billion over the coming years with significant capital investment by shareholders.

“We are honoured to partner with SMFL, a visionary global organization with a rich and profound history. Every person at SMFL we have dealt with has shown the highest level of professionalism, moral and ethical character, as well as a deep commitment to sustainability and social impact. It is these shared values that will create an enduring partnership,” said Libra Group Executive Chairman George Logothetis. “We expect to progressively grow and deepen our relationship with SMFL over the years, our long-term outlook and belief system are strikingly similar. The possibilities for collaboration are endless, from aviation, to maritime, to renewable energy, to all that lies in between. We look forward to working together over many years and across many industries to meet tomorrow’s challenges.”

LCI’s first partnership with SMFL began in 2020 with the launch of a US$230 million helicopter leasing joint venture (JV) of 19 next-generation helicopters. Since that time, the JV has expanded and now has a portfolio of over 50 aircraft valued at over US$550 million.

In addition to this transaction, senior representatives of both Libra Group and SMFL have signed a framework agreement that will serve to further cement the close business relationship that exists between the two groups. Libra and SMFL intend to expand their collaboration across additional Libra Group industries and business verticals.

Masaki Tachibana, President of SMFL, said: “We relish this opportunity to make a significant equity investment into LCI and to deepen our relationship with Libra Group, a business partner that has already won our respect and admiration. The investment by SMFL into LCI is the next step in what we hope will be a series of strategic collaborations across the helicopter and relevant industries, which enables both of us to further strengthen LCI’s business. Libra Group shares our values and commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we see many exciting opportunities ahead for partnership, innovation, and impact to societies.”

Libra Group invests in innovation at scale across its six sectors: maritime, aviation, renewable energy, hospitality, real estate, and diversified investments.

LCI’s modern, sustainable aviation technology orders reflect this commitment to innovation. Recent examples include an agreement signed in January 2023 with Elroy Air, a developer of advanced autonomous cargo aircraft systems, to acquire up to 40 of the company’s Chaparral vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. In April 2022, LCI signed a deal with BETA Technologies to acquire up to 125 state-of-the-art electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Upon the delivery of all its new orders, LCI will have a fleet of close to 350 aircraft that will be leased across the world.

Jaspal Jandu, Chief Executive Officer of LCI, said: “LCI is delighted to expand and solidify its relationship with SMFL through this transaction. Given our shared values and culture, they represent an ideal partner as we embark on the next chapter in our development. Together we intend to reinforce LCI’s position as a leading provider of leasing, financing, and investing solutions in the aviation industry.”

Since Libra created LCI in 2004, LCI has undertaken over US$10 billion of transactions in the aviation market. LCI has built a track record of successfully navigating market cycles and anticipating future customer needs. Some examples include a landmark US$1 billion sale of 21 aircraft in 2007, followed by a US$400 million order for a fleet of Leonardo helicopters in 2012 that remain in service today.

LCI provides leasing services to operators, Governments, and end-users worldwide. Through partnerships with industry leaders, LCI maintains a future-focused fleet of young, modern aviation assets. Many are deployed in mission-critical and socially responsible sectors such as Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Search and Rescue (SAR), and offshore wind energy.

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