The downturn that followed the banking system meltdown of September 2008 has had a "brutal impact" on the civil helicopter market, and 2009 has seen the effects spread to public market, according to Eurocopter chief executive Lutz Bertling.
Speaking at an EADS seminar, Bertling noted that governments' tax revenues were decreasing, while shifts in commodity prices had forced changes to the state budgets of oil-producing nations. However, the impact on demand was to some extent softened by the strengthening focus on border protection and policing, arising from heightened social tensions.
A "very significant" slowdown in civil bookings is already observable. While this "does not create a problem for 2009", Bertling admitted concerns for 2010 and 2011. Around 70 helicopters in Eurocopter's order backlog have been cancelled. Civil bookings for the year, net of cancellations, stand at 100.
The first impacts on military business will be seen in 2010, but for now military orders are "sustaining despite the crisis" and partly compensating for the civil fall-off in the mid-term, says Bertling.
He expects the book-to-build ratio to be above one at year end, while orders for 2009 will be down in terms of unit sales but not in terms of value. However, since orders taken now will not show up in financial results until 2011 or 2012, 2010 will be "a difficult year" for Eurocopter, albeit that there is "bright sun at the end of the tunnel".