Willis Lease Finance Corporation has reported earnings of $1.6 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, in the first quarter ended March 31, 2013, compared to $2.5 million, or $0.29 per diluted share, in the like quarter a year ago, with the drop in earnings primarily due to reduced gains on the sale of leased equipment.
In the fourth quarter of 2012, Willis Lease recorded a loss of $0.8 million or $0.09 per diluted share, after absorbing a $2.8 million charge related to preferred share issuance costs incurred in a prior period resulting from the redemption of its Series A Preferred shares.
“The highlight of our first quarter was the $118 million, 19 engine purchase-leaseback transaction completed in March with SAS Group’s subsidiary Scandinavian Airlines,” said Charles F. Willis, Chairman and CEO. “This transaction was one of the largest and most complex engine sale and leaseback transactions ever done. We added 11 engines valued at $63 million to our lease portfolio, and a further 8 engines valued at $55 million were acquired by our joint venture, Willis Mitsui & Co Engine Support Limited. Since the engines were purchased in different tranches late in the quarter, the full quarterly impact on lease rent revenue won’t be realized until the second quarter.”
Willis added: “Our finance team is working on several projects to further improve upon our capital structure and resources going forward. Looking at the capital markets today, I don’t recall a time when I have seen more availability. I have been saying for a long time that access to capital is one of our strengths, and we intend to continue to take advantage of opportunities the market offers.”
During the first quarter, Willis Lease’s lease portfolio increased 4.6% to $1.02 billion, largely due to the SAS purchase-leaseback transaction with Scandinavian Airlines that was completed late in the quarter. Total revenues fell slightly to $35.3 million from $35.7 million a year ago, with all revenue line items increasing in the period except for gains from sale of equipment which decreased $1.9 million. Lease rent revenues increased 1.7% to $24.5 million compared to $24.1 million a year ago. Maintenance reserve revenues also increased 7.6% to $9.2 million, compared to $8.6 million a year ago. Total net finance costs increased 17% to $9.2 million, compared to $7.9 million in the year ago quarter, reflecting higher debt levels and higher average financing costs. The higher interest costs (pre-tax) were partially offset by the elimination of the quarterly $0.8 million preferred dividend (after-tax).
“Market conditions have changed little since the end of last year,” said Donald A. Nunemaker, President. “The one significant exception is the activity surrounding the CFM56-7B engine type which powers the Boeing 737NG aircraft. We are seeing a noticeable increase in demand for this engine type. Since the utilization rate for our 7B engines is already well above 90%, the heightened demand won’t necessarily allow us to put more engines on lease. It will, however, generate more opportunities to place these engines when they are returned and will likely lead to incrementally higher rents on new leases. We believe that most of this increased demand is due to a greater number of engines in operators’ fleets requiring shop visits. Perhaps this is one of the first tangible signs of the “bow wave” of shop visits that has been the subject of industry predictions for this engine type for the last five years.”
At March 31, 2013, Willis Lease had 193 commercial aircraft engines, 3 aircraft parts packages and 7 aircraft and other engine-related equipment in its lease portfolio, with a net book value of $1.02 billion, compared to 193 commercial aircraft engines, 3 aircraft parts packages and 12 aircraft and other engine-related equipment in its lease portfolio, with a net book value of $974.3 million a year ago. The Company’s funded debt-to-equity is 3.75 to 1 at quarter end, compared to 3.49 to 1 at December 31, 2012 and 2.96 to 1 a year ago, with the increase primarily due to the $31.9 million equity reduction resulting from the preferred share redemption in October 2012.