PARIS — Texelis expects a large export boost for its vehicle chassis business after being awarded a contract with partner Nexter for troop carriers for the French Army, the company’s business development director, Jean Vandel, has told Defense News.

The privately owned company, which builds drivelines and axles, signed Monday alongside Nexter a contract to develop and build the Light VBMR, a four-wheel drive armored vehicle for the Army’s intelligence and reconnaissance units.

That was a high-profile deal as armed forces minister, Florence Parly, procurement chief Joel Barre and Army Gen. Bernard Barrera attended the signing at Roanne, central France.

“Our aim is to have more than half turnover from exports,” Vandel said. The French Army is well-respected, so winning that contract grants the company a “flagship” for foreign markets.

That deal will help the company compete with the main supplier in the world market, Unimog, he said. “We intend to come to this market with a brand-new level of technology.”

Signing the deal makes Texelis to a joint prime contractor, bearing the company’s hopes of becoming a brand name. The company was previously a subcontractor, supplying drivelines for the French VAB troop carrier and VBCI infantry fighting vehicle.

The company will supply “everything that enables the vehicle to move — everything between the engine and the wheels,” he said.

That includes the driveline, steering system and dashboard in the full “mobility” package, he said. The contract runs for 15 years and builds a direct link between the Armed Forces Ministry and the company.

Texelis’ chassis contribution accounts for about a third of the contract value, with Nexter receiving a third for the armored hull and Thales a third for onboard electronics, Vandel said.

The contract is expected to bring in annual sales of €15-20 million (U.S. $18-25 million) from 2020, he said. The company forecasts 2018 sales of some €100 million, up from €72 million last year. Profit is expected to be 5-8 percent of turnover.

Defense will account for €45 million of sales, with the rest from civil business including €48 million from rail equipment, he said.

The company is recruiting some 30 staff for development, and it plans to hire a similar number when serial production starts in 2021. The company employed 310 staff last year.

There is a “challenging” schedule with three years for development, he noted. The deal sets 689 as the minimum number of units ordered by 2025, with a total of 2,050 by 2030.

An industry source said Soframe teamed with Safran to bid in the tender. Other bidders included Ineo and Renault Trucks Defense, which specializes in light military vehicles.

Texelis was spun off in 2009 from Renault Trucks (a company separate from Renault Trucks Defense) when Philippe Frantz, a businessman in Limoges, beat three competing bids and became the main shareholder, business daily Les Echos reported.