Gecas leasing giant is 'keeper' for GE parent, says CEO

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Aircraft-leasing giant Gecas is a "keeper" for parent group General Electric as the conglomerate considers breaking itself up, according to the leasing unit's chief executive, Alec Burger.

Speaking at the Airline Economics conference in Dublin, Mr Burger dampened speculation that GE might offload the unit entirely. Mr Burger is also president of GE Capital.

GE boss John Flannery has been pondering a break-up of the iconic group, which last week revealed that it will shoulder an adjusted $7.5bn (€6.1bn) after-tax charge in relation to its legacy insurance business.

GE, which releases fourth-quarter results on Thursday, will make statutory reserve contributions of $15bn (€12.2bn) over the next seven years to help cover elevated claims.

"We've had the benefit of being 50 years in the industry," said Mr Burger. "The thing that struck me, as a relative newcomer to the industry, is actually how stable the returns have been in the leasing sector.

"I think when GE looks at Gecas… they like the returns in the business, they like the global nature, they like where the overall aviation industry is positioned.

"So, you read in the paper obviously, the whole [GE] portfolio is being looked at, and I think Gecas is a solid keeper."

Last year, Gecas contributed $1.4bn (€1.1bn) in net income to GE, which is expected to generate $7.3bn in earnings for 2017.

The Gecas (GE Capital Aviation Leasing) unit, which has an operational HQ in Shannon and which also has an office in Dublin, has a fleet of more than 1,900 fixed-wing jets and helicopters, with assets under management valued at about $45bn (€37.7bn).

It employs more than 200 people in Shannon and about 30 in Dublin.

Gecas tussles with Dublin-based AerCap for the title of the world's largest aircraft lessor, with Dublin-based Avolon in third place.

At the Airline Economics conference yesterday, the chief executive of Dublin-based lessor Goshawk Aviation, Ruth Kelly, said that the US airline market has seen the benefit of consolidation, with carriers there generating "huge profitability".