Italy's defence giant eyes $10B sales in Asia


Italian defence group Leonardo aims to sell around 8.4 billion euros ($10.49 billion) of products in Asia over the next five years as part of a business plan designed to boost exports, a senior executive said. The state-backed conglomerate last week promised double-digit profit growth in its first business plan under Chief Executive Alessandro Profumo but disappointed investors on shorter term prospects, three months after a profit warning clubbed shares. As part of the plan, Leonardo expects to sell 70 billion euros of products like helicopters and weapons systems over the next five years, a growth of around 6 percent a year, with 60 percent of sales to export markets. Asia is forecast to account for 20 percent of export sales during that period, Chief Commercial Officer Lorenzo Mariani said in a phone interview ahead of the start of the Singapore Airshow today.

"We are going to expand very quickly, opening new offices and facilities in Indonesia, Thailand, Australia and Bangladesh," he told Reuters.

Profumo, a veteran banker, was picked to steer Leonardo on an aggressive expansion drive as part of a broader and longer term strategy targeting higher growth than in the past. As the group shifts its focus towards foreign markets, Leonardo is due to almost double the number of international marketing offices and open logistics hubs offering customer support to its clients, particularly in key markets such as the Middle East and Asia. Leonardo yesterday announced plans to set up a new helicopter maintenance centre in Japan to service the fleet of more than 120 of its rotorcraft operating in the Asian nation. The Italian company makes civil and military helicopters, as well as aeronautics and weapons systems and the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet in partnership with Airbus SE and BAE Systems PLC. Mariani said Leonardo was in talks with Thailand about selling electronics and helicopters to its military. In Australia it is participating in several naval and land sales campaigns alongside partners, he said.

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