Hensoldt consolidates South African presence


Hensoldt has consolidated its two South African subsidiaries, GEW Technologies and Hensoldt Optronics South Africa under the new Hensoldt South Africa brand as it aims to unify and grow the business.

Hensoldt South Africa was officially launched on 4 September during a function outside Pretoria attended by key industry stakeholders and members from Hensoldt Germany and South Africa.

Rynier van der Watt, Managing Director of Hensoldt South Africa, said that “Hensoldt South Africa heralds a new era, leveraging the strong heritage of our South African businesses and extends the panoramic reach of Hensoldt – a global pioneer of technology and innovation. We have a clear vision…we plan to become the leading defence electronics and security solutions provider in South Africa and the entire world.”

Thomas Muller, CEO of Hensoldt, said that “We don’t want to double business in the next five years – we want to triple business.” This will see Hensoldt South Africa invest in new acquisitions and broaden its product base. In the coming weeks, Hensoldt South Africa will complete its portfolio in South Africa and will invest in the country.

Hensoldt South Africa it will continue to offer every single one of its existing products to customers whilst expanding its offering into the radar, data link, Identification Friend or Fore (IFF), customer services and business development fields, amongst many others.

In choosing South Africa, Muller said Hensoldt intends to leverage the country’s industrial base to support Africa, the BRICS market and Middle East, amongst others. “We will leverage the power of the Hensoldt brand and our global footprint to open new market opportunities for our South African business,” he said.

The Hensoldt group employs 5 000 people and has an annual turnover of some one billion euros. With 600 employees, Hensoldt South Africa is the biggest division outside Europe and plans to grow its skills base by several hundred mechanical, electronic and computer engineers. The company already contributes significantly to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as GEW and Optronics have a combined turnover of more than R1.5 billion per annum. This will grow as Hensoldt invests half a billion rand in South Africa.

“This is a major step towards our Hensoldt South Africa Growth Strategy and the creation of a South African sensor solution house”, said Celia Pelaz, Member of Hensoldt’s Executive Committee and responsible for the strategic development of Hensoldt in South Africa. “We are committed to further investing in the growth of our South African footprint and support president Ramaphosa’s announced investment drive. Our experience in the country shows that international investment and cooperation that has been added to local infrastructure, skills and capacity is the perfect mix for business success and local economy growth.”

Simphiwe Hamilton, the executive director of the SA Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industry Association (SA) congratulated Hensoldt for its consolidation and said it is a positive investment in South Africa, which is a gateway to the continent. He added that he would like to see more partnerships of this nature in South Africa.

Hensoldt specialises in defence and security electronics, including spectrum dominance and electronic warfare, radar and airborne solutions. Not all of these capabilities are represented in South Africa, but this will change with the creation of Hensoldt South Africa.

GEW has for decades focussed on spectrum dominance and electronic warfare systems, whilst Optronics is one of the world’s leading optronics suppliers, covering airborne gimbals, to submarine periscopes and laser rangefinders. Together, the two companies have more than 70 years of combined experience. Its products are in service with the South African National Defence Force and South African Police Service, which Hensoldt says is an indication of the company’s critical strategic capabilities.

Hensoldt South Africa does not only service the defence and security markets – for instance, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has been using its direction finding equipment for spectrum monitoring and regulation for more than 20 years. It is also active in wildlife conservation, having developed a combined radar and electro-optical surveillance system that is protecting over a thousand rhinos in South Africa.

Under Hensoldt South Africa, van der Watt, who founded Parsec and worked for Etion, is the managing director whilst Hennie Venter is the Chief Executive of the electronic warfare side of the business and Deon Olivier is the Chief Executive of the optronics business unit. They will continue to operate from their respective sites in Pretoria.

“One of my goals is to make sure we are a responsible corporate citizen and follow the recently launched South African Defence Sector Charter. We will make sure this company has improved good Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) rating,” Van der Watt said. This includes building suppliers and growing the local industry. Hensoldt South Africa is looking into launching a ventures division, which will be an incubator for product ideas. It will also soon be introducing a training academy in partnership with leading academic institutions.

“Our positioning is, we are a sensor solutions house. We want to be the number one sensor solutions house in the world, which means we design sensors that generate data; positioning ourselves closer to where the future lies, which is closer to the data,” van der Watt said.