Two Boeing 747-400 Freighters were sold on Tuesday on Taobao, the online shopping platform owned by Alibaba, for a combined 322.8 million yuan ($71.5m), reflecting the first time such jets were sold via online auction in China, and possibly the first-ever globally at online auction.

The sale was concluded after six failed attempts at offline private auctions organised by the seller - a state court - in the past few years.

SF Express, China's largest private courier, bought the jets from the Intermediate People's Court in the southern city of Shenzhen, which seized them after Jade Cargo International filed for bankruptcy in 2013, according to the South China Morning Post.

Three Boeing 747-400s had been put up for sale on Taobao's judicial auction arm from Monday to Tuesday. One of the jets parked at the Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport went unsold, with a starting bid of 122.6m yuan ($27m).


Taobao is an online shopping platform similar to eBay.

The other two planes bought by SF Express are housed at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

They had an opening bid of 133.8m yuan ($29.4m) and 135m yuan ($29.7m) respectively, and both drew two participants during the auction process.

The jets were eventually gavelled off at 160.8m yuan ($35.3m) and 162m yuan ($35.6m), up 20 per cent from the starting bids.

According to rules on Taobao's auction site, bidders were required to make security deposits of 6.1m yuan ($13.4m), 6.7m yuan ($14.7m), and 6.8m yuan ($14.9m) for the respective jets before the auction.

The winning bidder is obliged to complete the purchase by sending full payment within 15 working days.

SF Express confirmed to the Post it was the buyer of the two jets, without elaborating further.

The Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court has been trying to find buyers for the three planes since 2015, listing them with an initial combined price of 1.32 billion yuan ($290m). The previous six offline auctions fell through.


In September, the court put them up on Taobao's auction arm, with a combined minimum bid of 391m yuan ($86m), down 70 per cent from the initial level.

Last year, Concord Aerospace, a Florida-based aerospace company, tried to sell a Boeing 747 jumbo on eBay, with a starting bid of US$300,000 ($438,000). The aircraft's four jet engines had been removed and its electrical components had been stripped. Nonetheless, the plane didn't sell.

Demand for Boeing 747s, once known as the "Queen of the Skies", has been fading. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are planning to phase out their remaining 747 wide-bodies by the end of this year.

Still, Boeing has recently raised its estimate for mainland Chinese aircraft demand in the next 20 years, forecasting total demand of 7,240 airlines valued at nearly US$1.1 trillion ($1.6 trillion).

"China's fleet size is expected to grow at a pace well above the world average, and almost 20 per cent of global new aeroplane demand will be from airlines based in China," Boeing said in its China Current Market Outlook in September.

SF Express, one of China's largest logistics service providers controlled by billionaire Wang Wei, said earlier this year that it will spend 2.7b yuan ($595m) to buy aeroplanes and recruit pilots.

Its subsidiary, SF Airlines, has a fleet of 40 freighters on Chinese domestic and regional routes. So far they operate with an all-Boeing fleet.

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post