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Bell Helicopter CEO: Asian Market Poised For Liftoff

Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison marks Asia as the go-to market for his company, especially with defense and commercial aviation being on the rise. John shares a few words with Reuters’ Gautam Srinivasan.

Too Good of an Opportunity to Pass Up

Gautam Srinivasan says: “With China growing more assertive and regional tensions on the rise, Asia is one of the world’s most promising defense markets with spending tipped to hit nearly $500 billion by the end of the decade.

“I asked John Garrison, CEO of military and civilian helicopter maker Bell Helicopter, how his company’s moving to capitalize on this opportunity.”

John Garrison says: “Asia Pacific is a very important region for us, both for military business, our commercial business and our service business. So we do expect a growth in this region. Orders this year, on the big defense contracts it takes time. So we’re here building relationships to have those orders come to us in the future. So it’s a very important market for us.

“In the area, we’ve been very successful in China. There’s significant growth in China and the China market. We have a great relationship in Indonesia with PTDI and sold them a significant number of helicopters. We’re having success now in Malaysia with our 429 and multiple applications offshore oil and gas, our emergency medical services. So in the region, it’s very diverse with very diverse customer needs and we’re trying to meet each of those customer-diverse needs.”

Zero in on the Target

Gautam Srinivasan says: “And in terms of new potential customers, which are the key target countries you’re looking at?”

John Garrison says: “Well again, Those countries that I mentioned but also Indochina. You know, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam. Those are countries as well that have a history of Bell products and opportunities for us to grow in the future.”

Gautam Srinivasan says: “And what will be the portfolio balance between commercial and military for Bell when it comes to this region?”

John Garrison says: “Right now it’s principally on the commercial side, and I think it will grow more on the military side, especially if we’re successful in any of the V22 or H1 potential sales. But right now it’s principally on the commercial side.”

What’s the Bottom Line?

Gautam Srinivasan says: “Now, Asia’s economic strength is waning, and what do you think will be the impact, especially in the commercial side for you?”

John Garrison says: “Well I wouldn’t say the economic strength here is waning, I mean it ebbs and flows. Nothing’s in a straight line. But this region is going to grow and there’s a very high correlation between economic growth and the growth of helicopter sales. So as the region grows, we’re absolutely confident the helicopter sales, both commercial and military, are going to grow commensurate with the GDP growth. It’s never a straight line, there’s ups and downs. But we’re confident this segment, that this region of the world is going to continue to grow and will become very, very important in the future.”

It’s All About the Elections

Gautam Srinivasan says: “That might be relevant to the long term, but in the near term, there is still a worry about, especially countries like India and China. What do you have to say about, especially when it comes to commercial helicopters?”

John Garrison says: “Well we didn’t see a slowdown at all in China. As a matter of fact, we had dramatic growth in China year-over-year from ’12 to ’13, and we’re seeing a great order volume in China in ’14. So we’re not seeing any slowdown in China at all. We’re actually seeing growth. India was a little slower with the elections coming up this year. I think once we get to the other side of elections, I think we’ll see a pickup in the Indian market.”