With leasing being used by eight out of ten businesses in the US today, and accounting for about one-third of new equipment acquisitions, most corporate executives are generally familiar with leasing. As the improving economy releases pent-up demand for capital equipment, many companies may find their financial conditions not rebounding fast enough to purchase new equipment outright. Executives facing lease vs. loan decisions may not fully know how the strategic use of equipment leasing can enhance financial performance and capital productivity. A deeper understanding of the lesser-known points of leasing, including asset management, tax treatment, insurance and maintenance, and lease options can better enable overall business performance.
Lessons From the Leasing Industry
The equipment leasing industry has been managing assets and employing strategies to ensure the most productivity is gained from equipment for more than 40 years. Companies that acquire significant amounts of equipment can learn valuable lessons from the leasing industry by reviewing their strategies and programs for efficient asset management. They can be easily adopted by most businesses, especially mid-sized to larger companies.
“Asset management” is a term used since the 1980s that basically means the ability to plan, acquire, manage and recycle assets in a systematic manner. Each stage of asset management has a significant impact on portfolio return and profitability. The asset management function should be employed throughout an asset's entire life cycle from the delivery of equipment to its installation, use, maintenance and finally de-installation and disposition. Most companies do not employ a formal asset management program. However, lessors have noted a growing trend among senior managers of companies that acquire large amounts of equipment to seek methods that will reduce their need for additional capital, as well as improve productivity from the current mix of assets. Over the next five years, asset management programs are expected to become standard in medium- to large-sized organizations, and leasing companies are being called upon to provide asset management expertise to companies seeking help with their programs internally.
Financial Goals First
Careful consideration of financial goals, such as improving cash flow or meeting a return on net assets, is the foremost consideration of an asset management program. Establishing acquisition guidelines based on equipment needs as well as financial objectives also is crucial.
These goals — different for each organization — should also be factored into the criteria for measuring the performance of a division or business unit.
Businesses would be wise to track maintenance and insurance costs associated with equipment, especially equipment under heavy use. In other words, the question should be asked if it would be cost effective to keep a piece of equipment for an additional year, or incur additional maintenance costs, which could mean keeping it an unsound financial investment?
Also, determine how much growth is expected over the next one to three year period. This has an effect on the acquisition mix of ownership, renting and leasing. Most businesses grow and change at varying rates. If an organization goes through a sudden growth spurt, having the flexibility to change your asset mix is key. The ability to dispose of equipment no longer needed during slower times also is important.
The amount of flexibility a business requires should be determined in order to help make the decision whether leasing or owning makes more sense. Ownership means the asset is yours forever (until disposal), while leasing allows usage of the asset for a set amount of time. The company’s needs may fluctuate, so you need to decide what kind and how much equipment is needed. Equipment use and estimated obsolescence should be reviewed in order to help establish a meaningful guideline for future acquisitions. Determine exactly how the equipment is being used and when it will no longer be useful. Financing the asset for that set amount of time may be the wisest investment with a disposal plan in place when the asset is no longer improving productivity, but rather causing a productivity plateau or even decline.
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Falko has a portfolio of 143 aircraft which has been independently valued at between US$300-400 million