High flyers embrace executive jets

Updated: 2014-08-16 08:33

By Yang Yang(China Daily)

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Airbus SAS, the French airplane manufacturer, has sold 25 of its 170 business jets in Asia, with 20 going to clients in China. According to a joint study conducted in April by Airbus and the UK-based Ledbury Research, China is expected to be home to about 1,040 dollar billionaires by 2020, a huge increase from the 470 recorded in 2012, which will put China on a par with the US.

Statistics from the US General Aviation Manufacturers Association show that of the 17,945 business jets in the world, 63 percent are owned by people in the North American continent. In 2013, the US was home to more than 14,000 executive aircraft.

However, China is catching up quickly and is now one of the fastest-growing markets for corporate jets. In 2013, 70 to 80 business jets - worth a combined total of $2.5 billion to $3 billion - were bought by Chinese clients, and there are now more than 400 aircraft of this type in the country, according to China Economic Weekly.

In its market forecast for the period 2011-30, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Inc predicted that the number of business jets in China will rise to 1,100 by 2020, and to 2,047 by 2030.

As a result, there are manifold opportunities for manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing, Cessna, Bombardier and Gulfstream - all of which are popular brands among Chinese billionaires.

Business and General Aviation magazine estimates that there are currently 35 Gulfstream G550s and 29 Gulfstream G450s in China.

In March 2013, Alibaba Group spent $49.7 million on a Gulfstream G550, mainly for the use of the Chinese company's founder and executive chairman Jack Ma.

Others who bought G550s include Li Ka-shing, Asia's richest man, Robin Li, founder and CEO of the leading Chinese search engine Baidu Inc, Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group which owns the world's largest cinema chain, and Zhang Jindong, chairman of Suning Appliance Co, one of China's largest privately owned retailers.

Xu Jiayin, chairman of the Evergreen Group, one of the largest real estate developers in China, owns a Gulfstream G450, and Joseph Lau Luen Hung, chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings Ltd, who has an estimated net worth of $8.8 billion, owns a Boeing 787 jet that cost $153 million.

Businesspeople aren't the only ones buying executive jets, though. The Hong Kong-born actor Jackie Chan, owns a Legacy 650, made by Brazil's Embraer Executive Jet, which cost a reported $30 million. Meanwhile, Zhao Benshan, a hugely popular comedian, spent $32.5 million on a Bombardier Challenger 850 that can seat 17 passengers and boasts a bar, a gym, and sleeping quarters. When he isn't using the plane, Zhao rents it to wealthy travellers at a reported 50,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan per hour.