Eurocopter chief Bertling predicts strong recovery

Paris
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Eurocopter's chief executive has delivered a resoundingly positive assessment of the company's mid-term prospects, predicting a strong recovery to follow a tougher year ahead.

Lutz Bertling says the helicopter maker is already seeing the effects of the worldwide downturn being mitigated by its strong presence in publicly funded markets like the police and military.

Speaking towards the end of the Paris air show, he said: "At the end of 2009 we will enter a tunnel, but it is a short tunnel and we already see the Sun at the other end. So we are preparing ourselves for a year that will be difficult, but not a disaster, and we have a bright outlook for the years to come. We need to deal with it, but it is a normal management task."

He pointed to Eurocopter's strong performance in recent years, declaring that it had a 45% global market share by units, which translated into a 30% share by value only because Boeing and Sikorsky dominated the high-value US military market.

Deliveries, he said, had grown by 22% a year on average since 2004, and turnover by 12%.

eurocopter-bertling
 © Eurocopter

He added: "Up to August 2008 the market was very strong, then from September we had a very, very steep downturn in the civil market.

"In 2009 we see the effect on the public sector. We have countries that are negatively impacted, but we have other countries where either because of stimulus programmes or because of increased security, demand is increased.

"Net bookings in the first quarter of 2009 will be down, especially in the VIP and tourism markets, and there is also some trend from twins to single-engine helicopters.

"But military orders are being sustained despite the crisis. In 2010 we will miss the production volumes because of the orders reduced in small helicopters. And then in 2011-12 will deliver more production out of the military side.

"We believe Eurocopter is not only strong enough to weather the storm, but after the storm we will come out even stronger."

Lutz also notes that more than 70% of Eurocopter's backlog is government-funded, output is split roughly 50/50 between civil and military applications and 68% of production goes outside its home nations of France, Germany and Spain. One-third of turnover is drawn from customer support - all factors supporting the company's stability.