Things may have changed since Stork took over the bankrupt Fokker in 1996 but, although the Netherlands-based conglomerate did not keep the manufacture of Fokker aircraft going, it has maintained the knowledge and expertise of Fokker’s engineers, moving into the aerospace sector through service and industrial divisions, writes Helen Massy-Beresford.

Through the aerospace services business, Stork maintains the 841 Fokker aircraft still in operation worldwide and the company is diversifying into service and conversions for other types in order to maintain this side of the business as Fokkers are phased out, offering support for owners and operators, modifications, logistics support and maintenance.

The business model for the industrial and service businesses inherited from Fokker was “turned around 180 degrees”, Stork says. The company, which slipped two places in this year’s top 100 to 64 following a 6% decrease in sales in 2004, now targets a wide range of aircraft types while concentrating its expertise in selected areas, whereas before it applied its knowledge across the board, but restricted its work to just one make of aircraft.

The Stork group has set out a plan to streamline operations into just two or three main areas of activity. Although the group has never commented, analysts are confident that aerospace will be one of these sectors. First-half results back up this theory, with strong growth in aerospace turnover. In the first six months, sales were up almost 27% compared with the same period in 2004, at €265.6 million ($322.6 million). The group also operates in the food systems, printing, and technical services industry. Turnover for the group as a whole was €867 million for the first six months of 2005.

In its aerospace industries business, Stork has had to build up a portfolio of customers and says “our customer base is becoming more and more balanced and profitable, with work on both sides of the Atlantic and in the commercial, defence and business aviation sectors”. Stork is confident about the future - predicting that this side of its aerospace business could double by the end of the decade, based on contracts to produce components for the Airbus A380 and Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). “From a technological point of view we’re at the forefront, but from a size point of view we are still relatively small,” it says.

Stork’s aerospace division got a new chief executive, Rob Spaans, in May. He is likely to focus much of his attention on the opportunities for improving the supply chain in aerospace. “Like many people in the industry we see the market dynamics in the industry and the outsourcing trend changing rapidly,” Stork says. But the company is tight-lipped on the possibility of future acquisitions, saying only: “It is very important to keep our portfolio balanced and be a part of the big projects in the market.”

Financial support from the Dutch government is important for future programmes, Stork says. Loans which allowed the group to participate in the A380 and JSF programmes will be repaid, and are proven good investments, and the group is hopeful the government understands “we need a level playing field for big new projects” such as the Airbus A350.

Source: Flight International