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Trade war, labour issues pose obstacles to Ameco strategy

Ongoing geopolitical tensions, such as the US-China trade war and Brexit, might hinder Chinese MRO company Ameco’s plans to grow its global footprint.

Chief marketing officer of the Beijing-based firm Zhu Xiao says that for its engines business, it is hoping to woo North American airline customers. The ongoing trade war, Zhu adds, could affect this ambition.

Zhu spoke with FlightGlobal at the recent Aviation Expo China in Beijing, where he outlined the company’s plans for 2020. Among opportunities it hopes to seize are growing its third-party MRO work, as well as expanding its engine business.

Another area Ameco thinks could pose a challenge in the coming year comes from manufacturers themselves. Apart from troubles with certain products — the ongoing Boeing 737 Max grounding, or the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine issues, for example — Zhu contends that in recent years, there have been a plethora of new products entering the market.

“I think under such circumstances, MROs have no time to digest [these] high-tech [products], and also [still] be equipped with the experience,” Zhu, who is also an executive vice president in Ameco, adds.

But one major risk Zhu observes that could derail expansion plans comes from its people.

Zhu notes that while market demand is “booming”, the company — and the wider industry in general —requires more qualified mechanics and engineers to meet this demand.

However, getting people qualified and then accumulating experience take time, and Zhu wonders if the supply of talent will be quick enough to meet demand.

“If we don’t have enough qualified personnel…I don’t think we can smoothly expand,” says Zhu.

Ameco is a joint venture between Air China and Lufthansa set up in 1989. In 2015, the then-Ameco Beijing merged with Air China’s MRO arm, resulting in a change in shareholding. It recently dropped the ‘Beijing’ moniker in its name, as part of a rebranding effort.

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