Bri­tish firms hitch on to China’s aero­space boom as Brexit looms

Gulf Times Business - - BUSINESS -

Bri­tish elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany TT Elec­tron­ics is hop­ing its first at­ten­dance at China’s big­gest air show with sup­port from UK au­thor­i­ties will help it land a front-seat role in the pro­duc­tion of the world’s next wide-body jet. The Wok­ing-based com­pany is in the van­guard of Bri­tish com­pa­nies scout­ing for busi­ness in China this week as part of a charm of­fen­sive spon­sored by the Bri­tish govern­ment, four months be­fore Bri­tain is due to exit the Euro­pean Union.

Its in­ter­est has been piqued by plans for a wide­body jet to be de­vel­oped jointly by China and Rus­sia, who un­veiled the first life-sized model of their CR929 at Air­show China in a bid to break open the du­op­oly of Air­bus and Boe­ing.

“If the next twin-aisle air­craft is go­ing to be a Chi­nese air­craft, we ei­ther get in­volved or we for­get about China’s mar­ket of twin-aisle for the next 10-15 years,” Ben Fox, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager at TT Elec­tron­ics, told Reuters.

The maker of sen­sors for planes, trains and hy­brid ve­hi­cles sup­plies parts for the Boe­ing 777 and Air­bus A350.

But few ma­jor new pro­jects are on the hori­zon and com­pe­ti­tion is cut-throat in the $800bn aero­space parts in­dus­try. Bri­tain’s Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional Trade for the first time set up a UK pres­ence at Zhuhai’s air show, lead­ing a team of seven mostly small and medium-sized com­pa­nies in the hopes of tap­ping into China’s ris­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing am­bi­tions.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May has said Bri­tain wants a free trade agree­ment with China, as it tries to rein­vent it­self as a global trad­ing na­tion af­ter the 2016 Brexit ref­er­en­dum.

The air show co­in­cided with a trade expo in Shang­hai where Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping promised to im­port more amid mount­ing fric­tions with the United States and oth­ers. Zhuhai’s UK Pavil­ion “is a demon­stra­tion to our Chi­nese host that we are se­ri­ous.

We put in quite a con­sid­er­able sum of money to sup­port this and that’s govern­ment money,” said Andrew Massey, deputy di­rec­tor for China in the aero­space and avi­a­tion divi­sion of the Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional Trade.

Many com­pa­nies face un­cer­tainty about postBrexit trade re­la­tions with con­ti­nen­tal Europe, a ma­jor out­let for UK-made aero­space parts, and the sta­tus of reg­u­la­tion af­ter Brexit.

“There is an el­e­ment of Brexit forc­ing peo­ple to broaden their hori­zons which brings op­por­tu­nity,” said Paul Adams, head of aero­space at con­sul­tancy Vendig­i­tal. Bri­tain has the world’s sec­ond largest aero­space in­dus­try af­ter the United States and is anx­ious to tout skills and knowl­edge.

Tan­ger­ine, a Lon­don-based con­sul­tancy that has worked with Bri­tish Air­ways, helped de­sign in­te­ri­ors for the CR929 dis­play.

Massey said Bri­tish com­pa­nies have also been help­ing the Chi­nese to fast-track the FAA/EASA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process for its smaller C919 jet, which did not ap­pear at this week’s show.

But their trump card may be an 11% drop in the value of ster­ling against the dol­lar since the 2016 Brexit vote, which has added a hard-nosed di­men­sion to Bri­tain’s global sales drive.

One small Bri­tish aero­space sup­plier told Reuters that even though it al­ready sold in 55 coun­tries, the Brexit ref­er­en­dum served as a wake-up call to push for more global mar­kets. “We’ve done nine exhibitions this year. Brexit is some­thing that will hap­pen and busi­ness will get round it but from our point of view we’ve done our first ex­hi­bi­tion in Ja­pan and China this year and that’s been very suc­cess­ful, and we’re push­ing for mar­kets around the world.”

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