Dublin-based aircraft leasing firm Avolon has reported a slight increase in net profits for 2019 as its revenues also rose. 

The company said it made a record $718m in net profits last year on the back of revenues of more than $2.6 billion. 

It has also declared a dividend of $285m for the year and said it delivered, transitioned or sold a total of 170 aircraft during 2019.

Avolon said 98.9% of its 925 aircraft were in use during the year, with the average fleet age of its planes coming in at five years with an average remaining lease term of seven years.

Avolon supplies aircraft to aircraft around the world, including KLM, EasyJet and Ryanair.

The rate of growth at the firm was considerably slower than previous years, but president and chief commercial officer John Higgins said the company was still "very, very happy" with the result.

"Not all one-nils are the same, to use a football analogy," he said, speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland. "The market is very challenging, and to deliver that level of profitability in 2019 was an outstanding result.

"We formed this business 10 years ago, it's an Irish company and we've been on an explosive growth track, including buying other businesses, so at some point you top out at the growth and you start to focus on other things," Mr Higgins said.

He said the firm's focus last year was to sustain profitability, but also to bring the company to investment grade.

"We're now an investment-grade issuer in the US markets, we've got access to the deepest and most cost-efficient debt in the US dollar market and that is more relevant for our go-forward plan than, say, continued growth."

The investment grade upgrade was secured at Fitch, Moody's and S&P Global. It came ahead of market expectations and had an immediate positive impact on Avolon's funding costs.

Dómhnal Slattery, Avolon CEO, said that 2019 was another year of strong financial performance for the business, where it achieved a major corporate milestone with its upgrade to investment grade. 

"We built on this achievement by delivering net profit of $718m, the highest net income in any year in Avolon's history," Mr Slattery said.

But he cautioned that the continued spread of the coronavirus created an uncertain backdrop for Avolon's customers. 

"However, in previous periods of dislocation air traffic has proven to be resilient. We have multi-cycle experience, a proven management team and a strong investment grade balance sheet. It is in an environment of uncertainty where this experience matters most," he added.

Another challenge for the firm has been the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, of which Avolon was a major customer.

"Simply, growth that we had planned for, airplanes didn't deliver," said Mr Higgins.

"We have 26 airplanes built, sitting in the desert in Seattle and in dollar terms you're heading towards $1.5 billion of assets that we haven't taken delivery of, and therefore aren't earning, and therefore aren't reflected in our numbers."

Mr Higgins said the company was in negotiations with Boeing about the kind of compensation they would receive as a result of the missed earnings caused by the 737 Max grounding. 

"We're having very, I would say, tough conversations with Boeing where we are seeking to ensure that all of the rights and all of the protections are fully honoured by them," he said.

"We're Boeing's fourth largest customer, so I expect that when we do reach a settlement it will be one that's to our liking," he added.