AIR­BUS STARTS BUILD­ING HELI­COPTER PLANT IN CHINA

Fa­cil­ity will be first by for­eign man­u­fac­turer on Chi­nese soil

New Straits Times - - Business -

QINGDAO

AIR­BUS has be­gun build­ing its first heli­copter as­sem­bly plant in China, and the Euro­pean plane­maker plans to pro­duce 18 ma­chines a year there in hopes the coun­try will soon open up its low-al­ti­tude airspace.

China cur­rently has a short­age of civil­ian he­li­copters for emer­gency med­i­cal pur­poses and other uses due to the mil­i­tary’s con­trol over the na­tion’s airspace.

Air­bus He­li­copters plans to com­plete its plant in the eastern port city of Qingdao at the end of next year.

The first heli­copter is sched­uled to be de­liv­ered in mid-2019, said its pres­i­dent Guil­laume Faury at the lay­ing of the foun­da­tion stone on Satur­day.

The plant will be the first by a for­eign heli­copter man­u­fac­turer on Chi­nese soil, he said. It will be jointly op­er­ated by Air­bus He­li­copters and Qingdao United Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Com­pany.

Air­bus also has an air­craft as­sem­bly plant in the north­east­ern city of Tian­jin, which it opened in 2008.

A let­ter of in­tent for a €750 mil­lion (RM3.41 bil­lion) deal, in­volv­ing the sale of 100 H135 he­li­copters to China and the con­struc­tion of the plant, was signed dur­ing a visit by Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel in 2015.

Air­bus He­li­copters saw its rev­enues fall by two per cent last year but is count­ing on China to boost sales.

The coun­try be­came its top mar­ket last year, with 48 of the 100 he­li­copters which China bought last year com­ing from Air­bus.

China has a fleet of only 800 he­li­copters, com­pared with 8,000 in Europe and 12,000 in the US, so the po­ten­tial for growth is vast, said Vin­cent Du­four, Air­bus He­li­copters’ sales di­rec­tor in the coun­try.

The Chi­nese mar­ket is still ham­pered by mil­i­tary con­trols over airspace.

Air­bus hopes this will grad­u­ally be re­laxed as was par­tially done in the late 1990s for com­mer­cial air­plane flights.

The twin-en­gine H135 ma­chines are of­ten de­ployed for emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices and Air­bus says this is its ini­tial mar­ket.

But the air­craft maker also plans later to sell units to Chi­nese po­lice for sur­veil­lance pur­poses.

Such a sale would not con­tra­vene the em­bargo on arms sales to China, said Faury.

“It’s not our pol­icy to sell mil­i­tary prod­ucts in China,” he said. AFP

BLOOMBERG PIC

Air­bus He­li­copters plans to com­plete its as­sem­bly plant in the eastern port city of Qingdao at the end of next year.

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