Helicopter giant Eurocopter says it has “great expectations” for its Southern African operations this year.
Eurocopter Southern Africa CE Fabrice Cagnat says the company will “reinforce our support of both the South African Police Services and the SA Air Force” during the June-July soccer World Cup “enabling them to ensure a safe and brilliant showcase event.”
He was commenting after last week’s release of Eurocopter’s 2009 global results that showed a consolidated turnover of 4.6 billion euros.
Eurocopter CE Lutz Bertling meanwhile says the EADS-subsidiary met its business and delivery objectives for 2009 and stabilised its turnover at the level of its record year, 2008.
But the world economic crisis caused a sharp order decline in the civil market for light helicopters. However, governmental orders have over-compensated in value the drop in commercial unit sales, leading to the second-best result of order intakes in Eurocopter’s history. In line with Eurocopter’s roadmap, the support and services business was also strengthened with the signature of a number of significant contracts.
Global deliveries remained stable with 558 new civil and military helicopters delivered in 2009 and almost matching the peak level of 2008. Order bookings suffered a decline in terms of units sold, but not in value. A net total of 344 new aircraft, including 81 Super Puma/Cougar/EC225/EC725 family helicopters, were sold, amounting to 5.8 billion euros.
“With around 460 gross orders, Eurocopter secured its No. 1 market position in the civil and parapublic market,” the company said in a news release announcing its results.
“The company’s total order backlog at the end of 2009 amounted to a robust 1300 helicopters or the equivalent of 15.1 billion euros, an increase of more than one billion euros compared to the end of 2008.
The statement adds that while “governmental markets remain stable despite of budget constraints, a full recovery of the commercial markets in 2010 is not evident. The lower order intake for light helicopters in 2009 will lead to lower production rates in 2010, while military helicopter rates will increase, a situation Eurocopter should be able to manage with its built-in flexibility.”
In Southern Africa, Cagnat says that thanks to its enlarged customer base, his business unit last year secured orders in line with 2008, most of them on the parapublic (police) and export markets.
Highlights were “the entry into full capability of the Botswana and Namibia Police Airwings based on the successful AS 350 B3 Ecureuil (“Squirrel”), with prospects of additional orders from both customers.”
Cagnat says the company will also be expanding its SA operations this year: “Following the successful establishment of our Cape Town base, we are now preparing plans to expand our main base at Lanseria. This will, among other things, accommodate additional maintenance and servicing work in support of our growing Southern African base of parapublic, corporate and private customers.
“Eurocopter is also pleased with the progress that has taken place in our joint venture with ATE to develop a Stand Alone Weapon System (SAWS) to equip our range of light to medium helicopters. There is a solid business case with significant market potential for this offering and we’re looking forward to developing our collaboration with ATE,” Cagnat says.
Eurocopter global stats
Globally, 55% of the company’s turnover achieved in 2009 was related to serial helicopters (equalling 2.5 billion euros), 35% (1.6 billion euros) derived out of support and services, whereas 10% (0.5 billion euros) were realised from development and other activities.
While 52% of the turnover derived from civil and parapublic sales, 48% was related to Eurocopter’s military products. The company thereby retained its healthy balance between the civil and military markets. The export share is 65%, with 35% achieved in the company’s domestic markets (i.e., France, Germany, Spain), proving Eurocopter’s successful strategy of expanding its activities to emerging markets.
The breakdown of order bookings is as follows: serial helicopters 65% (3.8 billion euros), support and services 31% (1.8 billion euros) and development and other activities 4% (0.2 billion euros). Eurocopter’s bookings for support and services have grown consistently by an average of 10% to 15% percent over the past three years. Regarding the 2009 bookings, military and civil products count for 70% and 30% respectively. The total export rate amounts to 66%.
Orders for 2009 were as follows:8 EC120 Colibri
- 103 AS350/355 Ecureuil/Fennec/EC130
- 8 EC135
- 63 EC145 (including 51 UH-72A Lakota)
- 9 Dauphin/Panther/EC155
- 81 Super Puma/CougarEC225/EC725
- 22 NH90
Bertling adds that not all geographic areas and market segments are equally affected by the crisis. “The downturn in the corporate, tourism and EMS markets which typically acquire smaller helicopters has been countered by a stable oil and gas market due to new exploration activities, and by a strong military market.
“Our decision to focus, in 2009, on governmental and services orders has proven to be right and allowed us to increase our backlog by more than one billion euros. While the United States and Eastern Europe, for instance, have been heavily affected by the crisis, Latin America, Asia and Western Europe kept up relatively well.
“In 2009, we have continued to expand our industrial presence in the UK, Japan, the USA, Australia, Brazil, Singapore and Thailand, while at the same time investing more resources into Research & Development and new products. We will be ready for future market requirements when the economy recovers.”
“Eurocopter’s key highlights in 2009 were the roll-out of the KUH (Korean Utility Helicopter), developed jointly with Korea Aerospace Industries, on July 31, and the maiden flight of the EC175, a joint development with Avic of China, on December 4. Both programmes are precisely on schedule and show great market potential already at this early stage.
“The Tiger has been deployed to Afghanistan by the French Armed Forces, proving unparalleled reliability and serviceability in the operational theatre. NH90 deliveries have continued throughout 2009 with a fleet of 40 helicopters in the tactical transport version now in service in five countries. The first naval NH90 has been handed over to the Netherlands.”
He adds that deliveries of the UH-72A Lakota for the US Army and Navy are approaching 100, all of them on time or even ahead of schedule. An order for a further 51 Lakotas was placed in December. The deployed Lakota fleet has accumulated over 21 000 flight hours to date, Eurocopter’s Support and Services section booked three major orders, one for the retrofit of 26 German Army CH53s for personnel recovery mission, one for the Life Extension of 28 Royal Air Force Pumas, and one for the retrofit of 34 Brazilian Army Panthers.
Pic: An AS 350 B3 Squirel helicopter of the South African plice carrying pecial Task Force commandos during a counter-terrorism exercise to showcase SA’s ability ahead of the soccer World Cup.