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Where once Saudi Arabia was the sole player, Embraer and its competitors now see customers in expected places like UAE and less-expected ones such as Lebanon -- despite unrest in the region.

Source: Lebanon Daily Star
By Mohamed el Amin

The Middle East and North Africa region remains a key market for business jets despite economic slowdown and instability, the vice president of Embraer, the third-largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft, told The Daily Star Friday.

“We have seen a slowdown in the MENA aviation market over the past year as in the rest of the world. But we have started to see signs of resurgence in the market, and we expect significant growth,” Ernest Edwards said.

“Business aircraft are spreading across the region. Decades ago, you could only find this type of aircraft in Saudi Arabia, but now we are seeing them more and more in every country,” he added.

Edwards, who has headed Embraer’s executive jets division since 2005, was in Beirut to visit leading banker Adnan Kassar, who purchased a Legacy 600, one of the company’s private jets, six years ago.

Such visits, he said, are precisely what help the Brazilian aircraft maker stand out against competition and boost its major strength point; optimizing their aircraft to their customers’ requirements.

“We put a lot of emphasis on innovative engineering that is a result of extensive surveys of customer needs,” Edwards explained. “As they say, if you build it they will come. But first you have to know what they want to be able to build it.”

He said his company had been in talks with many businessmen in Lebanon and the region for potential sales of the company’s new line of executive aircraft.

Only 3 Embraer business jets have been sold over the past few years in Lebanon, which is considered a rather small market for this type of aircraft.

However, many Lebanese businessmen opt to register their aircraft offshore, he added.

Nevertheless, Embraer sold some 40 aircraft in the MENA region over the past few years, a healthy market share with a total aircraft value exceeding $1.2 billion, Edwards said.

He added that markets like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia remain among the region’s most lucrative markets for business jets.

“The UAE has been the most stable politically and economically. The growth rates there are conducive to private aircraft,” he said. “We also see an opportunity for growth in Saudi Arabia where businessmen are now upgrading to newer products.”

According to Edwards, back in 2005, Embraer only had a 4-5 percent share of the global market for executive jets. Last year the company’s share soared to over 18 percent.

Holding a model of the Linage 1000, the company’s newest business jet, Edwards said he was confident the company’s market share would jump to 25 percent by 2015.

The 19-passenger aircraft features a lush high-tech interior, a home-like kitchen, a dining room, a luxury lounge, a bedroom and three bathrooms, he said. The airplane is capable of flying distances as far as from London to New York in total comfort.

“We also have a family of seven aircraft that meet every price and mission requirement, whether it is a nonstop flight from Beirut to London or an economical family flight from Beirut to Cairo,” he said.

Interested customers should look closely at Embraer’s line of aircraft, Edwards added, highlighting that their aircraft sell from $4 million, for a small four-seater jet, to $56 million for the Linage 1000.


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