Saturday 24 March 2018

Dublin Aerospace plotting foreign expansion

Dublin Aerospace founder Conor McCarthy hopes to create 200 jobs at the company.
Dublin Aerospace founder Conor McCarthy hopes to create 200 jobs at the company.
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Dublin Aerospace, the aircraft maintenance firm established by former Ryanair executive Conor McCarthy, is evaluating opportunities to expand its operations outside Ireland, the Irish Independent has learned.

It could see the company make an initial investment of about €12m abroad, and up to €35m over three years.

The company, which is backed by investors including Airbus-maker EADS and Air-Asia's founder Tony Fernandes, employs about 240 full-time staff.

It has been approached by four different governments interested in attracting it to their countries, Mr McCarthy confirmed. He said most of those approaches are from Europe.

The executive chairman said a decision would be made within the next year on whether to expand Dublin Aerospace outside Ireland.

"It's something we're actively working on and it's an active search that we are doing," he said.

The most recent approach received by Dublin Aerospace was made within the past couple of months, said Mr McCarthy.

He declined to identify the governments that made the approaches.

A foreign facility would probably focus on aircraft maintenance as a whole, rather than on additional maintenance services the company already provides at Dublin, such as servicing landing gear and auxiliary power units.

Dublin Aerospace was founded by Mr McCarthy, who also helped establish AirAsia, in 2009. It services Boeing and Airbus narrow-body aircraft. In its last financial year, it posted record profits of €3m and revenue rose 13pc to €43.5m.

"The success of the business over the past few years has attracted attention," said Mr McCarthy. "While our operation has been successful here, and we continue to grow it and do get support, it makes sense for us to expand our geographic footprint."

Dublin Aerospace recently won a contract with AirAsia to service its landing gear, beating competition from a Chinese company. Dublin Aerospace flies the landing gear to Dublin to be serviced.

But for entire aircraft maintenance, airlines typically want to be able to get their aircraft to a service hangar within a three to four-hour flight. With Ireland on the periphery of Europe, a base elsewhere would help the company secure more business.

Mr McCarthy said other countries have also identified aircraft MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) as a strategic sector to capture investment in.

"There are countries that have identified that, and which give employment aid, soft loans and loans for construction of aircraft hangars and very attractive, or zero rates," he said.

The company also has a major apprentice training programme, which would help ensure it has trained staff able to fuel its expansion.

Mr McCarthy added that securing finance for a foreign expansion would not be an issue, and that the company's net debt position is extremely low.

The aviation executive has previously criticised high rates imposed by Fingal County Council, in whose borough Dublin Airport is located.

"You'd like to think you could develop at your own base at a competitive rate," he said, adding that building more hangars at Dublin would increase the firm's unit cost, because of rates.

He said the company will continue to grow organically at Dublin, however.

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