China To Buy Aircraft Leasing Giant ILFC

Investor group offers $4.8 billion for AIG unit.

A group of Chinese investors is negotiating to buy a majority of ILFC, the aircraft leasing giant owned by AIG, for around $4.8 billion.

AIG announced it is in talks to sell an 80 percent stake in ILFC to the group of Chinese companies, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The deal would be the most dramatic in a Chinese spending spree in the last year that has included purchases of billions of dollars worth of U.S. companies.

AIG has been selling off assets as it seeks to pay back $182 billion in U.S. government bailout money from 2008. The company had hoped to take the ILFC leasing unit public through an IPO, but the down economy prevented it from doing so.

ILFC was founded in 1973 by aircraft leasing legend Steven F. Udvar-Hazy, who sold the company to AIG and went on to form another successful venture, Air Lease Corp.

ILFC is world’s second largest leasing company and one of the world's biggest owners of passenger jets, with more than 1,000 owned or leased airplanes on its books. Its main rival is GECAS, an arm of General Electric. ILFC's customers include most of the world's major airlines.

Once approved by U.S. regulators, the sale of ILFC to China is expected to close in the spring.