New Market: Airbus Helicopters' African customers include Lesotho, which has acquired the company's EC135 light utility helicopter for the Air Wing of its Defense Force. (Airbus Helicopters)
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BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE — Eurocopter Southern Africa Ltd. (ESAL) says it plans to establish a permanent base in Kenya to conduct maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) on all Airbus helicopters in Africa and parts of the Middle East, as the company anticipates growing force modernization requirements in sub-Saharan Africa.
The company, formerly Eurocopter, has recorded 35 percent growth in business in southern Africa since 2010, as countries in the region have increased investments in military aircraft, airborne law enforcement and civil emergency response capabilities.
In recent years, the company has supplied the EC145 helicopter to the Namibian Police Service, the EC135 to the Lesotho Defense Force’s Air Wing and a number of older Eurocopter models to the Botswana Defense Force, which are reportedly due for systems upgrades or replacement.
Arnaud Montalvo, CEO of ESAL, said the company’s move to Kenya is a response to a boom in the country’s civil aviation sector and the government’s drive to strengthen its military, law enforcement and conservation agencies, offering numerous sales opportunities.
“Originally, our activities were mostly in South Africa. In the past seven to eight years, we have expanded outside South Africa, mainly for law enforcement,” Montalvo said. “But in Kenya, [our market] is not only law enforcement, it is also other government agencies: Kenya Wildlife, Kenya Forestry, Kenya Pipeline, plus many civilian operators who are mostly in the utility sector. ... The Kenya police have growing needs and have issued a tender for a twin-engined helicopter.”
The base, to be located at Nairobi Wilson Airport, will be the company’s second in Africa. The existing base in South Africa includes an MRO center for Airbus Helicopter models in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, and a training academy at Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg. It also includes Africa’s first full-motion flight simulator, for training pilots and flight engineers operating the Super Puma helicopter, at the Sim-Aero training center at the O.R. Tambo International Airport, also in Johannesburg.
“Kenya and the surrounding region is a growth market for Airbus Helicopters, and Nairobi is perfectly located for the establishment of a base for sales and support to customers and operators in East Africa,” said ESL spokesman Linden Birns.
The timeframe for the move to Kenya is still being developed, he said.
Eurocopter’s move to Kenya follows market analysts Frost & Sullivan’s prediction that the value of the combined military and civilian helicopter market in the developing world, including the Middle East and Africa, will rise to $146.8 billion between 2014 and 2022.
A heavy slump in demand is expected in the European and North American markets, whose combined market value is estimated to rise to $9.7 billion in the same period.
In a report, “Global Helicopter & Systems Market: Capturing Growth Opportunities across the Rotorcraft Industry,” Frost & Sullivan said demand will be driven mostly by the ongoing platform renewal cycle that indicates more countries favor retrofitting platforms than buying new ones. It also will be driven by a growing demand for maintenance, upgrade services and the adoption of new mission and avionics systems.
“Emerging markets comprise significant opportunities among new helicopter procurements, with a forecast market size of $146.84 billion between 2014 and 2022 for military and civil new platform deliveries, and a related market size of $46.33 billion for service support during the same period,” according to the analysis.
Eurocopter’s growing business relationship saw Kenyan customers take delivery of five of the seven Eurocopter helicopters delivered to Africa last year. Kenya also accounted for four of the seven pipeline business orders won by ESAL last year.
Despite the shrinking base of the aviation sector in South Africa following the 2007-10 financial crisis, Montalvo said, ESAL has capitalized on increased activity by law enforcement in other southern African countries. Further regional sales are anticipated for new aircraft.
“We have introduced ... the EC145, with one delivered to the Namibian Police, and the EC135 to the Lesotho Defense Force. We expect to sell more helicopters to the Lesotho [Defense Force] in the medium term. They have aging aircraft to replace. They are still using an EC135 to replace a BO 105,” an older, German-built light utility helicopter, he said.
Montalvo said ESAL also hopes to build on its presence in the Angolan offshore oil and natural gas market by aggressively marketing its larger helicopters in the oil and gas support sectors on the east coast of Africa, from Mozambique to Kenya. It also seeks to expand its product support capabilities and introduce new products to Indian Ocean nations Mauritius, Madagascar and the Seychelles, as well as to Reunion, a French island territory. ■