French aerospace group Zodiac has had a presence in the European aeronautical industry since 1896, when it began life developing airships and aircraft, writes Helen Massy-Beresford. More recently the group, which operates in niche high-technology markets, has focused on growing its business through acquisitions, a strategy that looks set to continue.

In July, Zodiac paid $600 million for US-based cabin interiors specialist C&D Aerospace, which is now part of its Airline Equipment segment. The deal gives the company a greater foothold in the USA – “helping to open up new markets in the dollar zone for the group”, it says – as well as strengthening its position in the cabin interiors market and taking it a step closer to its goal of becoming “the leading company” in the aircraft interiors field. The acquisition also fits Zodiac’s aim of targeting businesses with a high technological content.

Before the C&D acquisition, Zodiac reported US sales of around $550 million in its airline equipment division, but increasing its US business is an important part of the company’s strategy to offset the financial impact of a weak dollar.

Zodiac has been adding small specialist equipment makers to its portfolio in five divisions – Aerosafety Systems, Aircraft Systems, Airline Equipment, Technology and Marine – since the start of 2004, picking up Smiths’ Icore wiring harness unit, Finnish lavatory and sanitation business EVAC and US onboard oxygen specialist Scott Aviation.

Zodiac’s results for the nine months to 31 May indicate the upward trend will continue – sales at the aeronautical businesses were up nearly 17% on the same period last year at €852 million ($1.03 billion). The company says it is on track to meet its full-year sales and growth targets.

Organic sales growth over the first nine months was 11.5%, with the rest coming from acquisitions. Zodiac is hoping to take advantage of the projected upswing in commercial aerospace, part of this will mean continuing its self-described “aggressive external growth policy”.

The company is keen to emphasise the independence of its divisions and business units. Zodiac groups its activities into five divisions, of which three focus on aerospace. Aerosafety Systems supplies evacuation systems, parachutes, aircraft arresting systems, elastometric products and electrical protection systems to aircraft manufacturers and armed forces for civil and military applications. Airline Equipment supplies airlines with cabin equipment and seats; while Aircraft Systems specialises in fuel, hydraulics, oxygen and life-support systems, electrical power systems, controls and displays and management systems for civil and military aircraft.

Source: Flight International