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Rating Action:

Moody's assigns a Ba3 rating to Aircastle's senior unsecured notes

26 Jul 2010

New York, July 26, 2010 -- Moody's Investors Service assigned a Ba2 Corporate Family Rating ("CFR") to Aircastle Limited ("Aircastle") and a Ba3 rating to the company's $300M Senior Unsecured Notes due 2018.

The Ba2 CFR reflects Aircastle's competitive mid-tier position within the aircraft leasing industry, as well as its record of profitable operations during the economic downturn. The rating also considers Aircastle's strong capital levels, manageable and relatively well-balanced risk exposures (geographic, aircraft and customer), and experienced management team.

At the same time, the monoline nature of Aircastle's operations represents a constraint on the firm's rating. Although Aircastle has benefited from growth in emerging markets air travel, the cyclical nature of the airline industry exposes the company to weakened aircraft demand, lower lease renewal rates and declines in aircraft utilization levels during industry downturns. These conditions can lead to lower asset yields, higher operating costs, and a higher risk of impairment charges, with potentially adverse consequences for Aircastle's profitability and access to funding. Moody's believes that the older average age of Aircastle's aircraft in comparison to leading competitors potentially exacerbates the company's asset impairment and liquidity risks.

In addition, Aircastle's dependence on secured debt results in a high level of encumbered assets that limits the firm's financial and operational flexibility. Aircastle has limited alternate sources of liquidity to meet its operating and financial obligations.

As a partially offsetting strength, Aircastle maintains a satisfactory capital position, as reflected by an effective leverage measure of 1.9x at March 31, 2010. Additionally, the company's unrestricted cash balances ($122 million at March 31, 2010) and the long term, matched nature of its funding mitigates liquidity concerns. The rating incorporates Moody's expectation that Aircastle will continue to employ prudent capital and liquidity strategies.

A further rating consideration is Aircastle's franchise positioning, which in Moody's view is not as strong as certain more established competitors. Some competitors have an advantage with respect to aircraft purchasing power and opportunity, as well as the global breadth and quality of their airline customers.

The notching for the Ba3 Senior Note rating reflects the substantial amount of secured debt in Aircastle's capital structure.

The rating outlook is stable, based on Moody's expectation that Aircastle will continue to exhibit profitability in line with recent historical bounds, that leverage will remain below 2.5x, and that liquidity and access to capital will continue to be carefully managed.

The principal methodology used in rating Aircastle is analyzing the Credit Risks of Finance Companies, which can be found at www.moodys.com in the Rating Methodologies sub-directory under the Research & Ratings tab. Other methodologies and factors that may have been considered in the process of rating these issuers can also be found in the Rating Methodologies sub-directory.

Aircastle Limited is an aircraft lessor headquartered in Stamford, CT, and had $3.8bn in flight equipment held for lease as of March 31, 2010.

New York
Mark L. Wasden
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

New York
Robert Young
MD - Financial Institutions
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's assigns a Ba3 rating to Aircastle's senior unsecured notes
No Related Data.
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