Japanese aircraft leasing giant SMBC Aviation Capital said Monday it has placed an order for 80 Boeing planes in a deal worth up to $8.5 billion.
The company, owned by Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and trading firm Sumitomo Corp., said its purchase of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft marked the single largest order for the plane by a leasing company as it looks to further tap the lucrative sector.
SMBC, the world's third-biggest aircraft lessor, already has a stable of more than 370 planes which it rents to carriers, with 95 airline customers.
The 737 MAX 8 -- a 200-seat, single-aisle, fuel-efficient plane -- is the main rival to the Airbus A320neo.
"Our expectation is that much of these aircraft...will be placed in the high-growth, emerging markets, particularly in Asia where...(there is) a lot of demand," SMBC Aviation's chief executive Peter Barrett told a press briefing in Tokyo.
"Certainly, we would also expect many of these aircraft will go to LCC (low-cost carrier) airlines."
In July, SMBC Aviation announced an order from Airbus for 115 single-aisle A320s in a deal worth around $11.7 billion at list prices.
The announcement on Monday comes less than a week after a property flagship led by Asia's richest tycoon Li Ka-shing said it planned to buy up to 60 passenger jets in a series of transactions that amount to more than $2.5 billion.
SMBC's latest deal comes amid fierce competition in the industry with a proliferation of budget carriers in the Asia Pacific region.
China has lifted a six-year ban on creating private airlines, helping fuel demand for aircraft, and smaller passenger planes are increasingly in demand in Asia as budget carriers cash in on the region's growing middle classes by expanding their reach to less prominent cities.
Airbus, Boeing and Embraer -- in their 20-year forecasts for the industry -- have all said the Asia Pacific is the key market to enter because of the burgeoning middle class.