Switch in focus from wealthy individuals to corporations aimed at exploiting slow economy

NetJets Europe says it expects to report an annual profit for the first time late next year as it starts to reshape its core customer base.

"Turning a profit depends on our very aggressive targets being met," says NetJets Europe director of communication Charles McLean.

The company is switching its focus from high net worth individuals to large companies and government VIP contracts, to exploit the changing economic environment. McLean says: "The global economy, impact of war in Iraq and the threat of terrorism are cutting more in our favour." Although the market fall-out has claimed a number of entrepreneurs, it has, with image-conscious companies, also created a promising sector for the fractional ownership giant.

McLean says: "These are tough times for business. Some companies are finding it hard to justify having a business aircraft on their books, particularly when they are being forced to lay off workers, but they still need access to one." He argues that corporations are often long-term customers and this should add stability to the venture.

To stimulate sales, Lisbon, Portugal-based NetJets Europe says it is enlarging its European operational base to include the "emerging" markets of Kiev, Istanbul, Moscow and St Petersburg. It is also targeting Germany and France, where the customer base has failed to meet its original expectations.

"[Mainland] Europe has been murder," McLean says. While the NetJets brand is well known in the USA, it has been difficult to raise awareness in Europe since its 1995 inception. The UK market has, however, provided rich pickings, with shareholder numbers doubling in the past year to 150. "With only 15 shareowners in Germany and 30 in France, we aim to replicate the success of the UK. We also plan to start marketing our product to [European] governments."

NetJets Europe, the only archetypical fractional-ownership provider on the continent, operates a fleet of 36 aircraft and plans to add one a month, increasing its fleet to 50 by mid-2004, McLean says. The company is scheduled to take delivery of a second Dassault Falcon 50 this month and will add two Gulfstream IV-SPs this year to reflect the wider geographical spread.

Source: Flight International