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The Deal: AIG Weighs Alternative ILFC Exit Path

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- American International Group (AIG) said Friday, Aug. 2, it remains in talks to sell its International Lease Finance unit for $4.8 billion, but said it was open to pursuing an initial public offering if the sale cannot be finalized.

New York-based AIG in December said it would sell a 90% stake in ILFC to an investor group led by Weng Xianding, chairman of New China Trust Co. Terms of the deal called for the group, which also includes China Aviation Industrial Fund and P3 Investments, to first acquire 80.1% of ILFC for about $4.23 billion with an option to acquire an additional 9.9% stake for $523 million.

But that deal was thrown into doubt in late May when AIG revealed that the Chinese investors had missed a deadline to make a $420 million deposit payment. The buyers made the payment on June 5, but AIG said in a filing it could cancel the deal by July 31 if it believes regulatory obstacles will not be overcome by that deadline.

AIG said Friday that the company remains in talks with the consortium, but CEO Bob Benmosche said during an investor call that the company was open to instead selling shares of ILFC to the public should the deal not go through.

AIG's board on Thursday authorized the company to buy back up to $1 billion shares of its common stock, noting that the action was approved without assuming an ILFC sale.

Los Angeles-based ILFC owns or manages more than 1,000 aircraft and has commitments to purchase more than 200 more, the majority of which it leases to airline customers.

The auction is part of a broader restructuring by AIG as it seeks to repay and recover from a $182.3 billion government bailout during the credit crisis. AIG during the financial crisis ran into significant difficulty trying to sell ILFC, keeping the unit on the block for about four years before reaching a deal with New China. But analysts have said resurgent equity markets should make it easier for the insurance giant to do a public offering of ILFC should the deal fall apart.

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