Just how small can the aviation business get? Pretty small, according to a recent report in Forbes. Global sales of small private jets rose 35% in the first half of the year, to a record $9 billion. At the same time, the number of passengers paying first-class, business-class, or full-economy fares on U.S. airlines has dropped from 18% to 9% over the past five years, according to consultant Velocity Group.
Against this backdrop, Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection Embraer (NYSE: ERJ ) held a press event at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, featuring its newest executive jets, the Phenom 100 and 300. But it was more than just a show; management announced that new air taxi service Magnum Jet would acquire 50 of the Phenom 100s in a deal worth $137.5 million at list prices.
Magnum expects to begin taking delivery of the Phenoms in early 2009, by which time it could also exercise an option to acquire 50 more jets. That conversion, which is also worth $137.5 million at list prices, allows Magnum to choose between either of the Phenom models.
Call it another feather in Embraer's increasingly crowded cap. Last week, it booked a 100-jet order for regional jets from one of China's largest airlines. Two weeks prior, it announced a strong earnings report and key wins from customers in its home country of Brazil.
Can the momentum continue? It sure seems like it. Executive jets are a growth market that's expected to account for $158 billion in annual sales within a decade. That ought to provide more than enough fuel for Embraer and its small jet competitors, which includes Textron's (NYSE: TXT ) Cessna unit and General Dynamics' (NYSE: GD ) Gulfstream business, as well as privately held Eclipse and Adam Aircraft, which recently earned $93 million in new funding. Don't expect any of them, especially Embraer, to remain on the taxiway for long.
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Fool contributor Tim Beyers wonders who else besides executives fly in executive jets. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get an inside peek at all the stocks he owns by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is always on time for departure.