Interview with Safwan Kuzbari, President and CEO of Novus Aviation Capital at Liberty House Officers DIFC Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/ Gulf News

Dubai: Novus Aviation Capital, an aviation leaser and financer, is bullish on the Gulf and United States market as it steams through a strong year, its top executive told Gulf News in an interview.

Safwan Kuzbari, President and Chief Executive Officer, said he expects to land close to $2 billion in contracts in 2014 after already securing almost half that figure in the first six months.

Novus Aviation is now chasing a billion in contracts over the second half of the year with Gulf carriers expected to deliver $500 million.

“We believe the Middle East is a very important area for us, mostly the GCC, where we have deals with most airlines in the [region],” Kuzbari said.

This year Novus Aviation has been involved in deals with Emirates, Malaysia Airlines and Finland’s Finnair.

Emirates is Novus Aviation’s biggest customer in the Gulf with “several [Boeing] B777 on lease back and one [Airbus] A380.” Kuzbari said the Gulf, where it only deals with wide-body aircraft, represents 30 to 35 per cent of the company’s business.

The three major Gulf airlines — Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — are driving the Middle East aviation growth through their respective hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

Passenger growth figures among Middle East carriers rose 13.2 per cent year-over-year in May, which was almost double the 6.8 per cent capacity increase, according International Air Transport Association (IATA) data.

To support its Middle East growth, Novus Aviation is expanding its Dubai operations. Kuzbari said Novus Aviation will be shifting to a larger office later this year and is recruiting to increase its Dubai permanent staff from eight to 20.

“We are focusing on the Middle East, GCC and [South East] Asian market …the US market [over] the next 12 months is going to be very bullish, he added.

Elsewhere, Kuzbari said Novus Aviation has “outstanding RFPs (requests for proposal) with different European airlines” and expect to announce deals in the next quarter. He, however, declined to reveal details.

“We are negotiating two A380s with major airlines that we will announce in the next couple of weeks but closing in August through TAF (Tamweel Aviation Finance),” he added.

TAF, launched last year, is a joint venture between Novus, Airbus and the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ).

While bullish on the United States, international passenger numbers jumped 4.4 per cent in May with capacity rising by 4.8 per cent, Kuzbari said he does not expect US carriers to shift on their stance of not operating the Airbus superjumbo A380.

He also said he was bearish on the narrow body South East Asian market, which he said is set to be flooded with capacity.

“With so many aircraft being ordered, and if delivered, there will certainly be over capacity in the narrow body in South East Asia,” Kuzbari said.