If you are thinking about selling, swapping or upgrading your aircraft engines, propellers or the entire aircraft, then the services of an Aviation Broker could be your best bet. From home built pistons to business turboprop or commercial jets, a good broker will help deliver a win-win.
Trust goes a long way in life, yet trusting people to do what they say they will do can be foolhardy. Anyhow, it is key to allowing a rewarding relationship to blossom. That almost sounds like marriage guidance and actually, perhaps it’s not that far off when we start thinking about the important role an effective Broker plays for the Buyer and the Seller.
Surprisingly, the number of parties that may be involved in what might appear to be a simple transaction, may turn out to be a long list of affiliates, associates and intermediaries, each inflating the price of the goods to the utmost of what the market will bear. Many of these affiliates are simply loose and unnecessary; adding time and cost, and no real value to the transaction. This real world practice is neither efficient, healthy or cost effective for the Buyer and rarely leads to satisfactory or comfortable outcomes for the Seller. The basic premise when either selling or buying is to qualify and minimise the number of 3rd parties involved.
Intuitively, one might think or be led to believe that the ideal purchasing process starts by liaising directly with the Seller. By and large, this sounds promising, certainly with the right kind of Seller. The trouble is, finding the right products can be very difficult in the aviation sector and connecting directly with the right kind of motivated and informed Seller who has the right product; is even more difficult.
Let’s face it, Sellers are not always of the best frame of mind when it comes to selling their merchandise. Most are very busy with operations, have a preconceived idea of an item’s value and have limited hours and resources to put into a sale e.g. doing the research, getting the facts, pulling together documentation, advertising and managing queries. The last point can be exhausting, not just in time consumption, but in both effort and cost. Unsurprisingly then, the cost of sale is frequently cited as being much higher than expected for the Seller.
For the Buyer, it is even more challenging. Thanks to the internet, Buyers frequently have a bewildering abundance of apparent choice, and these words are chosen carefully because there is a huge chasm between apparent choice and qualified choice. It would appear that 10mins of Googling for a Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior yields 11 options. Three of which do not exist, 4 outdated adverts, 2 possibles if one can wait 16wks, 2 available now, and a single 1 within my desired budget. It has taken 3 days to obtain replies over phone and email and it has become a mini-project to keep track of my single enquiry; which is frankly becoming tedious and tiresome. For those looking to procure a list of items, the challenge can really become quite an investment.
As a Buyer, one is obliged to carry out due diligence on any acquisition, ensuring that it meets aviation authority, safety and security regulations and that all parts, part numbers and documents are correct and as they should be. They need to know and have an obligation to know exactly what they are buying, especially when the Buyer is a maintenance firm as opposed to the end client.
Hurdles are naturally present on both sides of the Buy⇔Sell relationship, effective intercontinental communication being a prominent one and lacking official documentation another. Expect these hurdles to increase at an exponential rate the more parties that are involved in the supply chain; inevitably this is going to come out of the bottom line. Despite procurement and admin staff being accounted for as a fixed overhead, the challenge goes way beyond this and the real trick is finding the right product at the right price being sold by the right kind of Seller to provide the buyer with at least one certain buy option i.e. achieve a net list of truly viable choices as quickly as possible.
How frequently do aviation sector sales transactions involve a Broker? Perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that circa. ¾ of transactions involve one or more Brokers and/or Affiliates for medium to high value transactions. Paraphrasing myself, that is a world of sludge right there.
We all know that effective buying and selling is about cutting out the middlemen, however, we really need to realise the extent that this does more harm than good in the purchasing and selling process; irrespective of whether you are the Buyer or the Seller. The point here, is that the Buyer and Selling folks need the best marriage agency around, a portfolio of solid Brokers to support their ad hoc and diverse needs, however unpredictable they are.
What you don’t need is a portfolio of Brokers with a super-narrow focus - or conversely - too broad a focus so as not to specialise or provide any value add. Too many Brokers is like having your own procurement and field sales teams; pushing and pulling ineffective deals left, right and center. Too few Brokers and the risk is reversed, they are unlikely to be able to respond when it matters.
So how does one find and curate the right Brokers when there are so many out there? Well, if you believe that online marketplaces connect you to all the Brokers, all the Suppliers and you already have all the buy and sell options possible, all of the time, then perhaps reading this article is superfluous to your supply chain, sales and procurement mastery. However, to answer this, we have all naturally called upon our connections, people we’ve done business with before, those we know and their connections and extended networks. Before long, we have a swaying portfolio that we’ve come to rely on (in the absence of anything else) formed mostly through osmosis. No doubt this will work for some, especially those conducting infrequent ad hoc transactions.
What are the Broker’s objectives?
1. Personally promotes and vouches for the right products
2. Professionally marries active Seller’s with energised Buyer’s
3. Conducts effective sales at a happy price for all involved parties
4. Makes a fair commission for their precise and value add services
1. Experience i.e. they have done it before and know what to
2. Knowledge i.e. they know about the Aviation sector and know specifically what you are looking for and what matters
3. Personable and trustworthy, providing a personalised service and understand the value they are bringing to both Buyer and Seller
4. Has an eye for detail, is supportive and cares about the transaction personally and professionally
5. Demonstrates proactive research into all aspects of a product not just the deal at hand
6. Seeks out damage history and considers the financial aspects e.g. loans and mortgages on assets
7. Is impartial, prudent and challenging on behalf of buyers, especially in respect of the legitimacy of documents and paperwork
8. Puts the time in and warrants the hours
9. Inspects the items being brokered in person - globally
10. Fair and transparent commission structure whether it be by percentage or value based
11. Takes responsibility for ensuring that the documentation is authentic and accurate
12. Happy to use Escrow and promote pragmatic release conditions
13. Performance led, expects to be paid after securing and completing an effective transaction and seeks no advance funds
14. Fair and easy to do business with
1. Not convincing as a Broker, more of an involved Affiliate
2. Wants to close the deal as quickly as possible to earn a commission
3. Happy to research but does the minimum possible
4. Being reactive only and not being upfront and proactive with communications and facts
5. Distinct lack of timely facts about the deal they are brokering
6. Can be blind to the product and unknowledgeable or unconnected in the Aviation sector
7. Aims to secure the highest possible margin at the height of what the market will bear
8. Claims to know everyone and be a master of everything
9. Requests upfront funds to pay for marketing and advertising
10. Requests early and unfair exclusivity and prohibitive constraints on an otherwise open market
11. Argumentative and/or pushy
12. Fails to verify equipment, understand maintenance status or confirm presence or status of damage history
13. May take a non-refundable deposit and decide not to broker a deal with you
Nothing kills ‘value’ like documentation in distress
Selling engines with positive TBO times is made significantly more difficult when the log books may have missing pages, are tatty, defaced or appear to have been altered; legitimately or not. Times and dates need to align to manufacturer’s schedules and mandatory airworthiness directives need to be correctly evidenced.
One of the challenges when dealing with Sellers in this respect is that they find it difficult to accept that missing or faulty, incomplete or unreadable documentation is like inadmissible court evidence i.e. the evidence has no value in a court case. In this case, the documentation in such a state - as an artefact - can have significantly less value in respect of a sale, and brings into question the general validity of an asset. In particular, it undermines engine authenticity and whether it has been maintained in strict accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines.
What are typical broker fees?
Brokers should receive payment following transaction completion and any unplanned fees managed head by the broker. The following structure may vary from broker-to-broker and it would be fair to suggest that some broker’s will request fully confidential transactions from a financial perspective, and potentially from a client perspective when no formal brokerage agreement has been signed. Signing an agreement at the right time will help the Broker achieve a good outcome for the parties.
In particular, Escrow’s transaction brokering facility provides a sound mechanism to enable the broker to keep the Buying and Selling values invisible to the parties. In many ways, this allows both the seller and buyer to achieve a happy outcome without actually knowing what the profit margin was for the broker. Escrow fees can be quite sizable and are generally split fairly between the parties to offer greater comfort.
How to engage an Aviation Broker
In our experience, the easiest way to engage is to drop the target Broker an email with your basic requirements, explaining what you are looking to buy or sell. A good broker that is able to help and accepting new business will undoubtedly respond quickly. A general rule of thumb is to stay uncommitted for as long as it takes to feel confident that the broker can meet the requirement.
What about Exclusivity?
Be open to signing exclusivity agreements when you know that you are getting close to a specific deal and understand any constraints if the deal does not complete. Remain non-exclusive at the outset until the Broker/s have identified the real Buyers and Sellers and they are confident that they can broker an effective transaction.
There will be obvious signs that the deal is getting closer e.g. discussion around shipping, pricing, timings etc. At this time, expect to receive legally binding agreements that tie the seller into the deal that the broker has tentatively agreed with a buyer. Once these become effective, it is likely that information about who the buyer and seller is will come to light for the parties. By this time, it will be too late for either party to opt-out of the transaction; the deal should proceed to completion.
1. Try not to over-broker, keep the portfolio of options limited
2. Choose your selling and buying pipeline carefully i.e. not too broad or overly narrow
3. If your broker is unable to marry Buyer with Seller, then see that as a pass this time, as opposed to a reason to strike them from your effective broker list
4. If you suspect the broker is stalling, seek the reason/s, it is generally not the best sign but before jumping to conclusions, hear them out. Many delays are perfectly legitimate especially when communication with the original manufacturer is concerned
5. Avoid tying yourself in too early, keep deals non-exclusive until a transaction is close to completion
6. By all means ask for references if you feel cause, but don’t hang your hat on that process delivering insight about the broker - they can all find great references. Gut-feel is sometimes your best guide
7. Focus on what matters from a Broker - the marriage of Buyer with Seller for the right product/s and recognise the value in this
8. Don’t be overly concerned about the size of the brokerage - all sides become winners if the broker does the job well
Author: Alex Berry, Copyright 2018
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