Conservative tax groups are once again attacking the US Export-Import Bank and its funding of US exports, including Boeing aircraft.
ExIm was created during the Great Depression to support US exports. It get attention because Boeing is the most visible beneficiary. The think tanks believe ExIm financing amounts to corporate welfare–a position that is 180 degrees from their usual approach to corporations.
Delta Air Lines is leading corporate attacks because it contends that foreign airlines get preferential financing and put it at a disadvantage.
Delta says that carriers like Emirate Airlines hardly need ExIm support, and it has a point. But less well-capitalized airlines like LionAir certainly could use it. Some further reform may be needed; international rules to bring ExIm fees and interest rates to market rates were already adopted. Tightening eligibility may be fair.
Delta had this to say in an Op-Ed piece in Forbes. You have to click past the advertising page to read it.
But eliminating ExIm? We disagree, as we have written on several occasions. The think tanks would hand this market support over to Airbus, which benefits from the European Credit Agencies export financing and this wouldn’t go away. This would put Boeing and its supply chain at a disadvantage to Airbus in international sales.
Embraer vs Bombardier: Here’s an interesting article explaining how Embraer sees the market a bit differently than Bombardier.
US Export-Import financing is under attack again by Delta Air Lines and Republicans.
We understand why Delta is opposed. It believes that ExIm financing of Boeing aircraft to competitors puts it at an economic disadvantage.
But fees charged by ExIm made financing more costly and “market rate,” a move intended to remove the financing advantages. Some airlines, in fact, chose alternative financing as a result.
Delta claims ExIm hasn’t taken into account the impact on losing American jobs. We find this a stretch, since Boeing out-sources thousands of jobs with its industrial partnerships (particularly on the 787) and supply chain contracts. At one time, we seem to recall Delta out-sourced jobs to non-US locations.
Be that as it may, at least Delta has its self-interest at stake and one can’t truly fault the airline for this. But the Republicans are another matter. Although ExIm finances a variety of US industries, Boeing is the prime beneficiary and some Republicans claim this is nothing more than corporate welfare.
ExIm, which has been around since the Great Depression, provides financing that is similar to European export credit support offer to Airbus customers. If Republicans succeeded in killing ExIm (or if Delta does), then Airbus will have a clear advantage.
This falls into the category of “what are they thinking??”
Puzzling math remains puzzling: Boeing has said for the better part of two years that the 737-800 is 8% more economical than the Airbus A320 and the advantage translates into leads it claims for the MAX over the NEO. With the addition of the Advanced Technology Winglets (BATW), Boeing now claims the 737 MAX will be a whopping 18% more economical than today’s A320 and up to 10% better than the NEO.
Such claims make Airbus almost apoplectic. Airbus rejects outright Boeing’s 8% claim and further said its own analysis on the MAX (pre-BATW) indicated the best improvement Boeing could get was 8%, not 10%-12%. Airbus also sniffs at the new BATW. Airbus evaluated the design before settling on the sharklets as more advantagous.
We’ve always been skeptical of numbers advanced by Airbus and Boeing because, after all, they are hardly objective. We’ve placed more weight in analyses offered by customers, for obvious reasons: they are the ones who have to operate the aircraft and truly know theory in real life.
We’ve previously written that Lufthansa concluded the 737 MAX will have a 2% advantage over the A320neo (also pre-BATW), which returns the competition to the “status quo.” This means that in Lufthansa’s analysis, today’s airplanes are only 2% apart, not Boeing’s claim of 8%.
Now comes information to us that Qantas–which operates both types through its own airline and the JetStar subsidiary–finds its operating experience to be so close as to be indistinguishable.
So we asked Boeing about that, and about how its methodology comes up with the numbers it advertised. Here’s the response, foregoing addressing the results of the airlines, citing long-standing policy of not commenting on customers. As for the methodology:
[Our analyses] are based on our average vs. Airbus and not individual customer statistics. There are too many variables to be able to address specifics and details.
Our numbers are cost per seat and are based on a 500 nm mission using typical European economic rules for airplanes with two-class seating giving the Next-Generation 737-800w (with PIP – Performance Improvement Package) 162 passengers and the A320 150 passengers.
Fuel burn values are Boeing tested values for the Next-Generation 737 and Boeing estimates for the A320. Maintenance costs are estimated using Boeing methodology which takes into account industry reported data from the FAA and IATA for both manufacturers. Same crew cost, landing and navigation and passenger handling cost models are applied to both airplanes.
We’ll note from our previous discussions with Boeing that Boeing acknowledged factoring in 737 PIPs (as cited above) but not factoring in A320 PIPs. Airbus claims Boeing uses the CFM56 as the base engine for the A320, rather than the V2500, which is 1.5% more efficient. Airbus also claims that Boeing uses older versions of the CFM56 as the A320 base engine rather than the newer, more efficient model. Airbus also uses 800nm vs Boeing’s 500nm for its analysis. (AirInsight’s analysis of US operation confirms that A320s and 737s tend to fly, on average, around 1,100sm, concluding that the longer range assumption is indeed a fairer data point.)
So the puzzling math used by Airbus and Boeing remains puzzling. The airlines say the airplanes are very close. We believe the airlines.
ExIm Bank: Just when we thought this was over, it turns out the Republicans in the US Senate Wednesday blocked a vote to approve reauthorization of the US ExIm Bank and a hike in its ceiling to $140bn. This story has additional detail. Boeing and GE take a hit on this.
Emirates to Boeing on 777X: Get a move on. You’re taking too long.
ExIm Bank: The fight between Delta Air Lines and the ExIm Bank continues.
As readers know, Delta is behind the move to block ExIm Bank financings of wide-body airplanes to international customers. We’ve a link to a Wall Street Journal article that gives another take on the controversy, so we won’t repeat the details here (which we’ve written about on several occasions).
Then last week, ExIm approved a guarantee with the Brazilian airline GOL for CFM 56 engines on Boeing 737NGs, with a proviso that GOL send the engines to Delta TechOps (a subsidiary of DAL) for maintenance. This caused quite the kerfuffle, as noted in the Politico article (also linked below).
Finally (actually not, but it is for today’s post), there is an editorial in the Washington Post that Delta really likes and sent on to us. That link is also below.
Readers know that we think the effort to block the ExIm Bank is stupid. Delta takes pains to say it is not against the Bank, only against funding international wide-body sales that compete with US international air carriers (and most specifically, Delta).
We understand Delta’s position but largely disagree with it. Delta does have a point when healthy carriers like Emirates Airlines use below-market rate ExIm funding. But Delta is off the mark when it comes to objecting to the concept that ExIm supports funding to foreign companies that are financially unable to commercial lending without the government guarantee. This is precisely why ExIm was created in 1934–to boost US sales to these companies.
Nearly $12bn in Boeing airplane sales (most equipped with GE Engines) were backed by ExIm guarantees last year and it will probably be a similar number this year. It’s anybody’s guess how many of these sales would not have happened had ExIm not stepped up.
We fully concur that it makes little sense for carriers like Emirates to qualify for ExIm. And international parties agreed last year to set market rates for ExIm services (replacing below-market rates), beginning January 2013. Delta remains skeptical that this solves the problem and that it will take years to see the results. It’s correct on the latter point and cynical on the former.