Eurocopter has become the majority shareholder of its former Japanese helicopter distributor Euroheli, increasing its stake in the company from 10% to 90% after buying most of the shares owned by trading firm Itochu Corp.

The EADS subsidiary says that Itochu will still own 10% of Euroheli, which it has merged with its subsidiary Eurocopter Japan. This company will become the first foreign aircraft manufacturer in Japan to carry out direct sales and customer support activities for its entire range of range of civil and military helicopters, says Eurocopter.

“This investment is completely in-line with our business strategy of being multi-local players in all of Eurocopter’s key markets. It proves our commitment to Japan based on our 40 years of experience in the market,” says Lutz Bertling, Eurocopter’s chief executive.

“Through this acquisition, we will be able to consolidate our strength and capabilities in Japan thanks to Euroheli’s pool of professional and experienced staff. With an increase in resources and a reinforced presence in the country, Eurocopter will be in a better position to serve our existing civil and governmental customers as well as to further develop our activities in the defence market.”

Eurocopter says that it has a 57% market share in Japan’s civil and parapublic sectors with a fleet of 360 helicopters. Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force operates three EC225 VIP helicopters, while its Maritime Self-Defence Force has just ordered two EC135 training helicopters. The company is also promoting the NH Industries NH90 helicopter to the country’s Self-Defence Forces.

The company adds that it is keen to participate in industrial cooperation programmes, similar to one it has had with Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries for several years to manufacture the BK117 helicopter.