DUBAI (Reuters) – An Abu Dhabi fund is supporting a new aircraft leasing company led by former Ryanair CFO Howard Millar to build a fleet of 100 aircraft over the next three years.

Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners, partly owned by the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala, is a benchmark investor in Sirius Aviation, headquartered in the emirate.

Millar, who left Ryanair in 2014 after 23 years, told Reuters Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners has invested $ 100 million in Sirius, which has joint ventures with US investment firms Corrum Capital and HPS Investment Partners.

Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sirius, created in March 2020, announced Monday that it has acquired its first 10 jets.

“We have arrived. We continue with our business,” Millar said.

The Abu Dhabi-based lessor plans to build a fleet of 100 aircraft, mostly made up of older models of Airbus A320s and Boeing 737 NG planes already leased to airlines.

“Single-aisle planes are the workhorse of aviation despite what’s going on in the world,” said Millar, referring to the coronavirus crisis that has decimated the airline industry.

Although global travel demand is expected to take years to recover from the pandemic, short-haul travel using single-aisle jets is picking up in some markets.

Sirius acquired the 10 jets, a mix of older A320 and 737 models, from Asian lessor BOC Aviation. They are leased to Southwest Airlines, Air New Zealand, Etihad Airways and Spirit.

The aircraft purchases were funded with investor capital, but would be counter-leveraged through a credit facility, Millar said.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Dan Grebler

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