Gulfstream looks to fly high in China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2011, 12:00am

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American business aircraft maker Gulfstream says it expects growth in orders from China to remain robust despite the bleak outlook of the global economy.

The firm, based in the state of Georgia, opened its first China office in Beijing yesterday.

Gulfstream said it planned to improve customer services and build up inventory in China next year to meet the rising demand from Chinese billionaires.

'The demand in European countries is depressed,' said Larry Flynn, president of Gulfstream Aerospace, in the capital yesterday.

'The American market is also sluggish, yet it's starting to come back slowly. However, the orders from China are still coming in and the growth outpaces any other country.'

The jet maker holds nearly 50 per cent of the large-cabin business jet market in Asia-Pacific.

Canada's Bombardier holds the second largest market share, followed by Dassault of France and Embraer of Brazil.

Gulfstream, which has more than 2,000 planes in service around the world, has seen sales in Asia almost triple in the past five years.

China is now its biggest market in Asia, accounting for half of its orders this year.

China's business jet market has been growing dramatically in the past couple of years as Beijing has been easing controls on domestic airspace and encouraging the construction of airports in small cities, according to Flynn.

In June, Minsheng Financial Leasing, a unit of China Minsheng Banking, said it planned to order 50 new Gulfstream jets to beef up its corporate jet fleet.

The orders, worth US$2.6 billion, are the biggest from a Chinese aircraft leasing firm, and they will be confirmed over the next three to five years. Gulfstream's major challenge is to meet the fast-growing demand of the Chinese market, according to Flynn.

As such, it plans to add more trained pilots and technicians, and enhance supporting services for Chinese clients next year.

The jet maker - which has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing - may also consider setting up shop in other Chinese cities.

'One secret about the China market is that our business jets are not only used for CEOs going on vacation,' said Flynn.

'Actually, they are heavily used for business purposes.'

He said most Chinese clients have businesses overseas, and some of them are among the richest people in China.

Gulfstream currently manufactures seven plane models, ranging between US$15.1 million and US$64.5 million in price. Last year, it recorded sales of US$5.3 billion on 99 aircraft deliveries.