Airbus faces A330 delivery delays amid HNA Group woes — Reuters sources

This photo taken on July 10, 2018 shows the new Airbus A220-300 parked on the tarmac on July 10, 2018 at the Airbus delivery center, in Colomiers southwestern France. (AFP / PASCAL PAVANI)
Updated 12 July 2018
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Airbus faces A330 delivery delays amid HNA Group woes — Reuters sources

  • Companies belonging to the troubled Chinese aviation-to-finance conglomerate have delayed payments for several months, leading Airbus to withdraw deliveries, the sources told Reuters.
  • “After six months of talks, Airbus took the decision to withdraw the planes as it does not want to play the financier,” said a person familiar with the discussions.

TOULOUSE, France: Airbus faces a logjam of undelivered A330 jets worth well over $1 billion for airlines affiliated to China’s debt-laden HNA Group following a stand-off over late payments, according to industry sources and a Reuters examination of parked aircraft.
Companies belonging to the troubled Chinese aviation-to-finance conglomerate have delayed payments for several months, leading Airbus to withdraw deliveries rather than step in to finance the aircraft itself, the sources told Reuters.
“After six months of talks, Airbus took the decision to withdraw the planes as it does not want to play the financier,” said a person familiar with the discussions on Wednesday.
However, another person involved in the matter cautioned: “It is in the process of being resolved.”
An Airbus spokesman said: “We keep our talks and contractual terms with customers confidential.”
HNA had no immediate comment.
The cluster of undelivered A330 aircraft came to light on the sidelines of a ceremony to present Airbus’s smallest new jet.
Reuters journalists counted five A330s dotted around the delivery center and another parked further away — some with reflective sunshade protectors taped to the cockpit windows and all painted in the flame-red liveries of HNA Group airlines.
These include Hainan Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines and Tianjin Airlines.
Six A330s would cost a total of $1.6 billion at list prices.

Turbulence
Various semi-finished A320s could be seen parked, though it was impossible to tell whether these were grounded for the same reasons or because of a wider problem of engine shortages for such planes. Airbus has had a stockpile of up to 100 undelivered single-aisle jets, but said last week this had fallen to 86.
The wide-body A330 aircraft has no such engine supply problems and it is the backlog of those more expensive planes that is causing most concern, the sources said.
An aircraft finance source estimated the total financial burden of holding such an asset, in terms of lost value and the cost of storage and maintenance, at $10,000 per plane per day.
Airbus is already having to handle cash shortfalls from the late delivery of dozens of A320 aircraft.
Unraveling the situation could be made more difficult by the death last week of HNA Group chairman Wang Jian, a financial source said, though HNA quickly named co-founder Chen Feng as sole chairman of the highly centralized group.
Wang, regarded as the architect of HNA’s $50 billion acquisition spree that pushed it into debt, died in southern France on July 3 in what local police said appeared to be an accidental fall from a wall while posing for a photograph.
His death complicates the troubled conglomerate’s efforts to restructure and pay off borrowings, and could increase pressure on HNA to reveal more about its oft-criticized opaque ownership.
“Anything like this creates turbulence, so things are difficult with HNA,” the financial source said. Another industry source stressed Chen was nonetheless a heavyweight figure.
Financial sources said earlier this year that some airlines linked to HNA were delaying aircraft lease payments to lessors.
Some of the sources said HNA’s flagship Hainan Airlines and smaller ones including Lucky Air and Beijing Capital Airlines had missed payments, while Tianjin Airlines was seeking to extend the term for payments due this year. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter)


To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

Updated 17 February 2019
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To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

  • Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups
  • Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector

BAGHDAD: Stuck between an endless waitlist for a government job and a frail private sector, Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups.
The first murmurs of this creative spirit were felt in 2013, but the Daesh group’s sweep across a third of the country the following year put many projects on hold.
Now, with Daesh defeated, co-working spaces and incubators are flourishing in a country whose unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent but whose public sector is too bloated to hire.
Many self-starters begin their journey at an aptly named glass building in central Baghdad: The Station.
There, they sip on coffee, peruse floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for ideas and grab a seat at clusters of desks where other stylish Iraqis click away at their laptops.
“We’re trying to create a new generation with a different state of mind,” said executive director Haidar Hamzoz.
“We want to tell youth that they can start their own project, achieve their dreams and not just be happy in a government job they didn’t even want,” he said.
Youth make up around 60 percent of Iraq’s nearly 40 million people.
After graduating from university, many spend years waiting to be appointed to a job in the government, Iraq’s biggest employer.
Four out of five jobs created in Iraq in recent years are in the public sector, according to the World Bank.
And in its 2019 budget, the government proposed $52 billion in salaries, pensions, and social security for its workers — a 15 percent jump from 2018 and more than half the total budget.
But with graduates entering the workforce faster than jobs are created, many still wait indefinitely for work.
Among youth, 17 percent of men and a whopping 27 percent of women are unemployed, the World Bank says.
When Daesh declared Mosul its seat of power in Iraq back in 2014, resident Saleh Mahmud was forced to shutter the city’s incubator for would-be entrepreneurs.
With Mosul now cautiously rebuilding after the militants were ousted in 2017, Mahmud is back in business.
“Around 600-700 youth have already passed by Mosul Space” to attend a seminar or seek out resources as they start their own ventures, said the 23-year-old.
He was inspired after watching fellow Mosul University graduates hopelessly “try to hunt down a connection to get a job in the public sphere.”
“A university education isn’t something that gets you a fulfilling job,” he said.
Another start-up, Dakkakena, is capitalizing on Mosul’s rebuilding spirit, too.
The online shopping service delivers a lorry-full of home goods every day to at least a dozen families refurnishing after the war.
“On the web, we can sell things for cheaper than stores because we have fewer costs, like no showrooms,” said founder Yussef Al-Noaime, 27.
Noaime fled Daesh to the Netherlands, where he was introduced to e-commerce. When he returned home, the computer engineer partnered with another local to found their venture.
A similar service, Miswag, was set-up in the capital Baghdad in 2014 and last year reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits.
On an autumn day, some 70 young Iraqi innovators converged for a three-day workshop in Baghdad on founding start-ups.
They flitted among round tables planning projects, their Arabic conversations sprinkled with English terms.
“What we’re doing is showing youth what entrepreneurship is — not necessarily so they succeed, but so they at least try,” said organizer Ibrahim Al-Zarari.
He said attendees should understand two things: first, that the public sector is saturated. And second, that oil isn’t the only resource on which Iraq — OPEC’s second-largest producer — should capitalize.
More than 65 percent of Iraq’s GDP and nearly 90 percent of state revenues hail from the oil sector. Many youths turn to it for work, but it only employs one percent of the workforce.
Widespread corruption and bureaucracy also weaken Iraq’s appeal for private investors. The World Bank ranks it 168th out of 190 for states with a good business environment.
Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector.
And Iraq’s stuttering banking industry appears too cautious to dive in, said Tamara Raad, 26, who researches start-ups.
“The banks have a role to play. They must make loans without interest and help young entrepreneurs,” she said.
Banks or no banks, Mahmud in Mosul is already planning how he’ll grow his business in 2019.
“We will open a new, larger space for new gatherings,” he said excitedly, to bring together returning designers, developers and other inventors.