Figeac Aéro embarks on €40m expansion programme

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French engine parts and subassemblies manufacturer Figeac Aéro has embarked on a five-year, €40 million ($55.5 million) plant construction programme which could lead to the creation of up to 300 jobs in France and 150 jobs in Tunisia.

At the turn of the year, the company opened a new 6,000m² (64,583ft²) facility at its headquarters in Figeac, in south-west France, dedicated to the working of hard metals.

On the same site, there are plans to build workshops dedicated to light alloy structures and engine components.

The investment programme also makes a provision for the construction of a 6,000m² assembly facility on another site, close to Figeac, in 2014.

Figeac Aéro's expansion programme reflects a marked turnaround in its fortunes, after it posted a 25% drop in turnover to €47 million in 2009, in the wake of the 2008 collapse of key customer Eclipse Aviation, for which it manufactured a bulkhead and other panels for the Eclipse 500 very light jet.

"Amid strong recovery in the aeronautics sector, 2010 turned out to be an excellent year for us in terms of the high number of contract wins," says Figeac Aéro commercial director Luc Rouan.

The family-owned firm picked up significant work on the Airbus A350 XWB programme. Business was also boosted by contract wins with Embraer, Bombardier, Gulfstream, Snecma and Spirit, for whom it has been signed up to provide nacelle subassemblies for the Boeing 747-8).

For the financial year to 31 March 2011, Rouan says Figeac Aéro's turnover is expected to increase to €61 million.

"Our forecast is for it to rise to €90 million in 2012 and €115 million in 2013, and for net profit to reach the equivalent of 5-10% of turnover, levels we were achieving before the global economic crisis.

"It's important to note that even in the dark days of 2009, we were not in a loss-making position and for the financial year which is about to end, net profit should work out at just below 5% of turnover."

In order to contribute to the financing of the €40 million investment programme and also to facilitate longer-term expansion and development, Figeac Aéro is ready to open 10-20% of its capital to either private equity managers or industrial groups.

"We are at the beginning of this process and are currently sounding out potential interest. We have given ourselves a maximum of two years in which to carry it through or not. But we are talking about the sale of a minority stake here and have no intention of inviting takeover bids," says Rouan.