image Week of February 24, 1999

Eurocopter Tops Rivals, Looks To Expand

Eurocopter beat traditional rival Bell Helicopter Textron in both sales and revenue numbers in 1998, but has no intention of resting on its laurels.

The French manufacturer announced plans to increase marketshare once again in 1999, despite challenges posed by the Asian economy, reduced military spending and depressed oil prices.

Last year Eurocopter claimed 35% of the US market, topping Bell's 25%. Eurocopter also claims 70% of the civil helicopter market in Europe, and retained 35% of the sharply reduced Australasian market.

Sales topped $2.1 billion in 1998, with a breakdown of 66% civil and 34% military. Included in the sales total was 60 sales of used aircraft.

Top sellers were the AS350 and AS550 with 93 orders. Eurocopter's newer EC120 and EC135 models sales increased to 45 and 44, respectively. The BK117 received 39 orders, the AS365/565 received 28, the BO105 received 16 and the AS332/532 seven.

Export orders were strong last year, with 67% of orders going to countries other than France and Germany.

Major contracts signed in 1998 include 32 BK117s for the French Civil Guard and 13 EC155s and nine EC 135s for the German Border Police.

Eurocopter president and CEO Patrick Gavin said he has high expectations for the medium-lift NH90 and the new Tiger combat helicopter. He expects around 300 sales from these models, coming from both France and Germany this year, and a 30% increase in the military marketshare over the next 10 years.

Gavin would also like to see improvements in the customer service segment, which accounted for 39% or $783 million of 1998 revenues, and to consolidate the entry into service its new range of helicopters.

Making its civil and military product line more environmentally friendly was outlined as the final goal for 1999. Eurocopter has added parabolic swept tips on its main rotor blades along with its Fenestron shrouded tail rotor technology to reduce operating sound levels. This technology will be applied to all future Eurocopter designs, Gavin said.

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