The U.S. trade agency nicknamed the “Bank of Boeing” could finance drones, converted cargo jets and aircraft maintenance services as it scouts for deals.
The Export-Import Bank was reauthorized by Congress in December, months after financing lapsed and new transactions were halted. The bank is exploring additional lending possibilities, including drones that can scan pipelines, buildings and borders, said Robert Morin, the agency’s senior vice president for business and product development.
“We’re just scratching the surface in terms of what is possible,” he said at the Airline Economics conference Wednesday in Dublin.
Financing aircraft and jet engines for foreign customers of U.S. companies remains a large part of the bank’s mission. Critics -- including congressional Republicans and the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank -- have said such deals amount to corporate welfare for Boeing Co. and General Electric Co. The ex-im bank’s portfolio includes 1,125 aircraft backed by loans and guarantees valued at about $50 billion, Morin said.
A robust market for aircraft financing means that overseas carriers rely less on ex-im bank support than they did during the 2008 global meltdown, however. The bank supported about 6 percent of Boeing deliveries last year, down from about one-third during the financial crisis, Morin said.
Would the U.S. trade agency provide support for aircraft that Europe-based Airbus Group SE is assembling in Mobile, Alabama?
“Follow the jobs. It doesn’t matter where the company’s based,” Morin said in an interview. “If a European company has operations in the U.S. and makes the stuff in the U.S., we can finance it.” He said, though, that the issue currently is moot, since deliveries from Mobile due to start this year are destined for American carriers.