November 05, 2012
Credit: Credit: Eurocopter
A new joint-venture in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan could be Eurocopter's key to unlocking not only the markets of Central Asia, but also Russia.
Kazakhstan is arguably the best economic gateway into Russia, thanks to the Customs Union pact among Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia that does away with tariffs and import duties on goods exported within the group.
Aerospace, meanwhile, is a high-tech industry that Kazakhstan's government is seeking to tap in an effort to diversify the country's economy beyond oil, gas and other commodities. Kazakhstan has a genuine need for aircraft, as it covers 2.72 million sq. km (1 million sq. mi.), about the size of Western Europe.
To entice aerospace companies to invest, the government has been making aircraft deals. It has signed letters of intent (LOI) with Eurocopter for 20 EC725 multirole helicopters and 45 EC145s. An order for 14 of the latter has been firmed up: 10 are intended for the emergency situations ministry and four for the defense ministry; six of the 14 have been delivered, after being assembled at a facility in Kazakhstan.
All subsequent EC145s and all 20 EC725s are to be assembled at a new facility, Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering (EKE), a 50:50 joint venture between Eurocopter and state-owned Kazakhstan Engineering. The joint venture's assembly plant officially opened in early July, when Kazakhstan President Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev visited it, on the grounds of Astana International Airport.
The first EC145 kits to be assembled at EKE arrived in early September, and eight will have arrived by mid-November, says EADS Kazakhstan's general director, Silvere Delaunay. The first helicopter to be assembled at the factory will be completed in time for delivery by year-end, he says. EKE is responsible for final assembly, customization and some systems integration work, he says.
The facility employs 50 people now and will employ 120 once it reaches its full production capacity of 10 EC145s per year, says Delaunay. Assembly of EC725s will increase the workforce further, but Delaunay declines to say by how much, because the work scope is still being discussed.
Eurocopter hopes to firm up some orders for the EC725s next year. The LOI calls for 20 helicopters to be delivered by 2020—a rate of 2-3 per year.