747 freighters for SF Express

It once flew for Jade Cargo International, but will soon be wearing SF Airlines colors.

The scramble for long-haul lift continues, with SF Express acquiring two 747-400ERFs.

Two months ago, we posted about three 747-400ERFs, parked since Jade Cargo International went bankrupt in late 2011, that were put up for auction on Alibaba’s Taobao website. (Read the post here.)

Yes, that’s right, after you had ordered your new smartphone, and maybe some nice shoes or some milk powder, you could also have put in a bid for a barely-used freighter aircraft, starting at just US$20 million.

But you didn’t jump into the online auction fast enough, and now there is just one of those freighters left, because today, SF Express, China’s biggest integrated express operator, bought the other two.

The transaction details are fairly straightforward: According to a report in the South China Morning Post, SF was one of two bidders for the two ex-Jade 747-400ERFs (35173 and 35174) stored at Shanghai Pudong (PVG). The floor prices on the two were $20.2 million and $20.4 million, and SF won the auction with final bids of $24.3 million and $24.4 million. The third freighter (35169), which is in storage at Shenzhen Bao’an (SZX), received no bids.

Was just under $50 million a good price for two 747-400ERFs?

At first glance, it would seem so. The freighters were delivered new in late 2007/early 2008, and operated for just four years before being parked. So, in terms of hours and cycles, these are very young aircraft. But, as we said two months ago, we have been told that to put these freighters back into revenue service will cost a lot more than the $24 million SF paid for them. They are reportedly in need of D checks, they may have components (landing gear, particularly) that are run out on calendar, the engines may need overhauls, and, according to some reports, they have been less-than-optimally stored and may have corrosion problems.

All that said, SF undoubtedly did its homework, and decided that the combined purchase and maintenance costs were a sound investment that would give them the long-haul lift needed to take advantage of the exploding cross-border e-commerce market. In fact, Cargo Facts believes this move by SF (and a few recently announced ACMI deals) is only the beginning of a massive expansion of the fleets of the Chinese express and general freight carriers.

And it is sure to be a major subject of discussion at Cargo Facts Asia in Shanghai next spring – so mark your calendars for April 23 – 25!

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