PARIS --- Eurocopter delivered 588 helicopters in 2008 (100 more than the previous year), generated a consolidated turnover of 4.5 billion euros, up 7.5 percent, and has so far not felt any significant effect from the worldwide financial crisis, company CEO Lutz Bertling said here Jan. 20.
The company registered “just over 30 order cancellations” in 2008, and saw the commercial market slowing in the second half, but is nonetheless counting on booking orders for about 450 new helicopters in 2009, with deliveries “in the same ballpark as 2008.”
Eurocopter has not yet seen any sign of weaker defense spending that may impact its results; on the contrary, some military customers, like France, have requested quotes for additional helicopters, so “all defense spending will not be sacrificed” because of the world recession, said company vice-president Philippe Harrache.
Profitability improved in 2008, and Bertling expects that profits will be slightly higher than in 2007, when the company posted an EBIT of 211 million euros. The final figure will be released after parent company EADS releases its own financial results, Bertling said.
Eurocopter also booked new orders worth 4.9 billion euros, including 715 new helicopters, which boosted its order backlog to 14 billion euros. The order intake for 2008 is substantially down from the record figure of 6.6 billion euros booked in 2007, but does not include two orders signed in late December, for which down payments have not yet arrived: 50 EC725s worth 1.8 billion euros for the Brazilian armed forces and 22 additional NH90s, worth about 380 million euros, for the French army.
Bertling said Eurocopter is devoting increasing major efforts to expand its global footprint, focusing especially on Brazil – which “we hope to make our fourth home country, and ….where we will double in size over the next three years” – Indonesia – where it opened its 18th foreign subsidiary – as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Southern Africa.
“We are continuing to build a global company, and we are the only helicopter manufacturer to have such a global industrial set-up,” Bertling added. Eurocopter also plans to substantially grow its business in China, India and the United States.
Eurocopter is interested in competing for the US Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter successor program, which it says is well-suited to a twin-engined design “as the mission requirements will be very hard to meet with a single-engined helicopter….and [in the EC145/UH-72] we have a platform that is very well suited to this requirement and that is already in service with the US Army,” Bertling said. “There would be very significant logistics advantages if the UH-72 platform was used.”
Eurocopter intends to bid with EADS North America as prime contractor, and with a US partner supplying the mission equipment package. “We really believe we have a fair chance,” Bertling said, adding that Eurocopter had recently received a letter from the US Army congratulating the company on the UH-72 program, which it called “the most successful procurement program of the decade”
The company is also bidding for several military contracts in India. One is for 200 light helicopters, which it has won in 2007 before it was cancelled, and a separate one for over 200 reconnaissance/scout helicopters which was won by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., which is looking for a foreign technology partner. Eurocopter is also offering the naval NH90 for a competition for shipborne helicopters and plans to offer its Tiger for a fourth competition to buy an attack helicopter for the Indian Army. “The market is huge,” Harache said.
Work on two cooperative programs is Asia is progressing well. The prototype of the as-yet unnamed Korean Helicopter Program (KHP), which will produce a “transport helicopter cheaper but less sophisticated than the NH90” is due to fly in 2010, Harrache said, while the Dynamic Test Vehicle will fly in mid-December. Plans are to produce 250 KHPs for South Korea, and a further 200 for export.
Assembly of the first of three prototypes of the EC175, a utility helicopter being developed jointly with China, began in late 2008, and the program has passed its critical design review. First flight is scheduled for mid-December. Bertling declined to provide any information as to its performance.
NH Industries, the nominal NH90 prime contractor of which Eurocopter owns 62%, was successfully restructured in 2008. Eurocopter now has full control of the TTH land-based version while its partner AgustaWestland has full control of the NFH naval version. “Reactivity has been tremendously improved,” Bertling said, and previous problems with the NFH (landing gear, navigation and radar systems) have now been resolved. “These are major technical achievements….and a qualification roadmap for the Search And Rescue version has been agreed with customers.”
Fourteen NH90s were delivered in 2008, for a total of 25, and the TTH version is in service in Germany, Italy, Finland, Sweden and Australia.
To date, Eurocopter has delivered 48 Tiger combat helicopters (15 of them in 2008) and they have logged over 13,000 flight hours. The final French and German versions were qualified by the customer in late 2008, and development of the HAD version continues on track although Bertling conceded that it may be delayed by “late delivery of certain government-furnished equipment, such as the uprated engine.” France plans to deploy some Tigers to Afghanistan in the Spring, and the Australian Army may well follow later this year or in 2010.
By the end of 2008, Eurocopter and its partners had delivered over 50 UH-72s to the US Army; these have logged over 7,000 flight hours and demonstrated an availability of over 90%, Bertling said. US government orders for the UH-72 now stand at 123 aircraft.