Westland order book swells: Helicopter maker links profit rise with better productivity

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The Independent Online
WESTLAND, the helicopter manufacturer, yesterday announced a tripling of its order book over the past year from pounds 700m to nearly pounds 2bn, representing more than four years' turnover at current levels.

During the first six months of its financial year 50 of its latest aircraft, the EH101 helicopter, jointly developed with Agusta of Italy, were ordered by Canada. The British government ordered six Sea Kings.

Alan Jones, chief executive, said: 'We expect certification for civil use of the EH101 soon and are confident that we will get plenty of North Sea work.' Of an expected total of 750 unit sales for the new aircraft 110 have so far been ordered. First deliveries are expected in 1996.

Mr Jones was particularly confident about sales of a 'utility' version of the helicopter suitable for carrying troops. He expected a trend towards rapid response forces to increase the demand for helicopters even where defence budgets were being trimmed.

Westland also announced a 23 per cent increase in interim profits for the six months to March, from pounds 10.4m to pounds 12.8m from sales up a tenth to pounds 220m. Mr Jones said the improvement, achieved despite an absence of deliveries of new helicopters, came from better productivity and a focus on spares and upgrade programmes.

Cost-cutting had continued, with a further 150 job losses during the period, taking the total workforce to 8,500. Profits had also benefited from a reduction in stocks and a subsequent fall in interest payable from pounds 3.8m to pounds 2.5m. Gearing was held at the year- end level of 17 per cent despite continued investment in the EH101 project.

Earnings per share rose from 4.8p to 5.7p and the interim dividend was maintained at 1.25p. The shares jumped 14p to close at 187p, up 48 per cent since the beginning of the year.

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