Bargains everywhere – but not for long

Friday, April 20, 2012 - 9:30am

With U.S. stock indexes rising and the economy showing signs of life, business jet buyers seem to be returning to the market. Much like horses at the start of a race, they appear to be champing at the bit, waiting impatiently for the starting gate to open.

There’s a sense that values have become compelling after freefalling for more than three years in some cases. The bargains won’t last, however, because the increased buyer activity is already leading to higher average pricing for a growing number of models. While the reversal in the downward trend is not across the board, it seems increasingly likely that market lows on many popular aircraft were reached last year.

Realization of such a fact typically results in an initial rush of buyers and then to a period where sellers start to try to command more for their aircraft and buyers pull back. This causes the market to move in fits and starts. Where are the best deals now? In the super-mid-size segment, you can find Dassault Falcon 2000s and Gulfstream G200s at inviting prices. In the large-cabin arena, the Bombardier Challenger 604 and Gulfstream GIV markets are flooded. But act quickly, as 2012 could see rising demand for these models.

As for small-cabin jets, including the owner-flown group, this is a terrific time to act for anyone thinking of getting into aviation. There are so many viable options in this segment that it’s as if a welcome mat were being laid out for the first-time buyer. In the $1 million to $2 million range, you can find Citation Vs and Ultras, Beechjet 400XPs and Learjet 31As.

In fact, some owners who bought Daher-Socata TBM850s for more than $3 million or Pilatus PC-12s for even higher amounts are reevaluating their positions due to the low prices in the entry-level segment of the jet market. This could be the year when many jet buyers wind up feeling like a kid in a candy store.

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““CEOs go to their vacation homes just after companies report favorable news, and CEOs return to headquarters right before subsequent news is released. More good news is released when CEOs are back at work, and CEOs appear not to leave headquarters at all if a firm has adverse news to disclose. When CEOs are away from the office, stock prices behave quietly with sharply lower volatility. Volatility increases immediately when CEOs return to work.” —David Yermack, a New York University finance professor, whose recently released study shows a correlation between when CEOs take their private jets on vacation and movements in their companies’ stock price ”

-David Yermack