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By Conor Humphries and Tim Hepher
DUBLIN (Reuters) -The world’s top aircraft lessor AerCap has submitted a $3.5 billion insurance claim for more than 100 jets stuck in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, setting the stage for a lengthy legal wrangle between lessors and insurers.
Dublin-based AerCap had the largest exposure of any lessor when European Union sanctions forced the termination of Russian leases, accounting for 5% of its fleet by value.
Not only is its insurance claim expected to be the biggest among lessors seeking compensation for the hundreds of planes worth a total of up to $10 billion which remain in Russia, it is also one of the largest single claims ever submitted.
“Last week we submitted an insurance claim for approximately $3.5 billion with respect to our aircraft and engines remaining in Russia,” Chief Financial Officer Peter Juhas told investors following the publication of financial results for the final three months of 2021.
“In this case we expect them to be contested, just given the large sums involved across the industry,” he added.
Lessors had until Monday to wind up current rental contracts in Russia under sanctions imposed by the European Union.
Analysts have said that the unprecedented nature and scale of the potential losses will likely mean years of litigation between lessors and insurers before any decisions on payouts are taken.
One industry executive predicted an “ugly battle” between the leasing and insurance companies.
AerCap said it may book an impairment in the first quarter of its financial year but it had not yet determined how big that might be. Juhas estimated AerCap’s net Russia exposure at around $2.5 billion.
AerCap had 135 aircraft and 14 engines on lease to Russia but has repossessed and removed 22 aircraft and three engines, it said in financial results for the fourth quarter of the year.
Its shares were 4% lower at 1415 GMT, and down 18% since the start of the year.
AerCap, by far the largest aircraft lessor in the world after its acquisition last year of rival GECAS, had 3,701 aircraft, engines and helicopters on its books at the end of December, it said.