Ex-Im Bank Chief Contests Delta Complaints on Aircraft Financing

Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL)’s complaint that U.S. Export-Import Bank financing for foreign competitors has cost American jobs is flawed, bank Chairman Fred Hochberg said.

“There’s no validity to their argument,” Hochberg, president of the Washington-based bank, said today at a Bloomberg Government breakfast.

Congress must reauthorize the bank, whose charter expires on May 31. Opponents including Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican and founder of the Senate Tea Party caucus, say the bank meddles in markets, putting U.S. airlines at a disadvantage. President Barack Obama’s administration is seeking to renew the bank for four years with a $140 billion lending limit, a $40 billion increase.

U.S. airlines led by Atlanta-based Delta in November filed a lawsuit against the Export-Import Bank, alleging that the lender’s financing may undercut domestic carriers.

“The Ex-Im Bank routinely fails to evaluate the negative impact that its commitments have on domestic industries and domestic employment,” according to the filing by the Air Transport Association, a Washington-based industry group now known as Airlines for America. The case is pending in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.

Delta is seeking to “end the damaging practices of export financing on wide-body aircraft sales in both the U.S. and Europe, in order to level the playing field without doing harm to Boeing,” Trebor Banstetter, a Delta spokesman, said.

Losses ‘Unsubstantiated’

Delta’s claim that jobs have been lost is “unsubstantiated,” Hochberg said. Bank lending supported 85,000 U.S. aerospace jobs in 2011, according to Hochberg.

The bank performs an economic-impact analysis of each of transactions to determine the effect on U.S. industries, Hochberg said.

Banstetter said airline economist Daniel Kasper of Compass Lexecon in a study found that Ex-Im financing on wide-body aircraft to foreign airlines caused a 4.1 percent drop in international-flight capacity, and a loss of 4,100 to 7,500 U.S. carrier jobs.

International competitors use Export-Import financing to buy wide-body planes from Boeing Co. (BA) at below-market interest rates, the airlines said in their lawsuit. Ex-Im financing last year supported about $11 billion in commercial aircraft sales for Chicago-based Boeing, according to a bank fact sheet. The bank’s total financing in 2011 was $32.7 billion.

If foreign airlines are unable to buy Boeing aircraft, they will purchase equipment from its European competitor, Airbus SAS, Hochberg said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Wingfield in Washington at bwingfield3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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