04 Jan 07. Smiths held back by aerospace business. Smiths Group has not had the happiest 12 months, as investors have become somewhat sniffy about the engineering and security detection group. The company, whose products range from avionics systems on fighter jets to medical syringes, has underperformed the FTSE All-Share index by 16 per cent over the past year, largely because of concerns about its core aerospace business.But amid a sometimes disappointing performance across the group, one or two divisions have continued to grow profits and sales at an impressive rate. Most notable is the company’s detection unit, a supplier of systems that sniff out explosives and chemical and biological weapons, which has emerged as the world’s biggest supplier of government-certified detection technology. “This is a real success story for UK PLC,” says Stephen Phipson, head of the £400m-a-year detection unit at Smiths. Recently, the divisionhas won contracts withthe US Department ofHomeland Security to supply portable radiation detectors to counter the terrorist threat of “dirty bombs” and to provide explosive detection machines at US airports. Mr Phipson, seen by some as a future chief executiveof Smiths, hopes the detection business will rise to about £1bn in yearly sales within five years. This growth will be largely on the back of a US homeland security budget that totals $43bn (£22bn) a year. The biggest part of Smiths’ detection sales are made to international transport authorities running metro systems and airports,a booming market after recent terrorist attacks and plots. The military is the next largest customer, but Mr Phipson says much future growth will come from ports and border security, especially scanning cargo containers. The US government, in particular, has been pushing hard for exporting countries to make sure containers are screened before they set out for US ports. “At the moment, about 7 per cent of all cargo is scanned,” says Mr Phipson. “Even if that rises to just20 per cent it still provides an awful lot of growth.We see that as a top priority.” Currently, port security scanners process about 30 trucks an hour. The ambition is to lift this to 100 trucks an hour. Typically, the biggest competitors for Smiths in scanning products for airports and transport systems are General Electric and L-3 Communications of the US. General Dynamics, the defence contractor, is the closest rival in the military market. In ports and borders work, Smiths has one significant competitor: Nuctech, aChinese company closely associated with Tsinghua University, a leading scientific educational establishment. Nuctech makes impressive products, but is limited in where it can sell them. The US, which accounts for about 45 per cent of the market for government-approved detection systems, will not buy from China. (Source: FT.com)
05 Jan 07. The security of UK airspace, in support of Homeland Defence, is to be boosted by additional air defence radar capabilities supplied by BAE Systems. Under a new UK Ministry of Defence contract, worth more than £30m, Europe’s leading defence Company will supply one new and one upgraded Commander Air Defence Radar system to the UK Royal Air Force. Provision of the medium-to-long range, solid state, rapidly deployable, air defence radars is underpinned by a logistics support agreement (with options) which will remain effective throughout their service life, expected to be at least until 2025.
19 Dec 06. Three helicopters from the Eurocopter range the EC120 Colibri, the AS350 B3 Ecureuil and the EC130 B4 have just been certified by the Russian Authorities. These civil helicopters are now authorized by the Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) to operate over Russian territory. They are following in the footsteps of the EC145, certified in Russia in late 2005, and the BO105, AS355 N and AS350 B2 Ecureuils, BK117, AS332 L1 and L2 Super Pumas, certified in Russia in the 1990s. Eurocopter has just clinched its