The aviation leasing arm of General Electric (NYSE:GE) is partnering with PIMCO Investment Management to launch an aircraft leasing platform to support up to $3 billion in aircraft financing.
GE's GECAS division is already one of the world's largest aircraft lessors, buying planes directly from manufacturers and leasing them to airlines. It's a model that airlines have embraced in recent years as a way to keep aircraft debt off their balance sheets, leading to a rise in interest for businesses including GECAS, AerCap Holdings (NYSE:AER), and Air Lease (NYSE:AL).
It's also a business that has been threatened by the coronavirus pandemic. Shares of AerCap and Air Lease have each lost more than one-third of their value in 2020 on fears that a pullback by airlines in response to the pandemic would weigh on the results of the companies that provide them planes.
GE and PIMCO said they see opportunity in this downturn.
"As the airline industry struggles with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PIMCO-GECAS platform will inject essential liquidity into this critical industry by providing financing solutions at a time when there are fewer traditional financing options for airlines," PIMCO chief investment officer Dan Ivascyn said in a statement. "Aircraft remain an attractive asset class in a critical infrastructure sector supported by solid long-term growth drivers."
The platform will allow PIMCO-advised accounts to acquire new and young fuel-efficient aircraft, with an initial focus on smaller narrow-body planes.
The need for liquidity in airplane finance at this moment is debatable, since few airlines are in the market for new jets. But the announcement is being viewed by investors as an endorsement of the air leasing model, causing shares of Air Lease and AerCap to rise on Monday morning.