Sunday, 13 June, 2021

Daher, the hidden French champion of aeronautics

First investment of the former FSI in 2009, the family group crossed the billion euros turnover mark in 2015. Close-up on a German-style mid-size company.

Emmanuel Macron visiting the Daher factory in Nantes in May 2015

It is a symbolic course, but a sacred course all the same. Driven by the growth of its aeronautical activities, the Marseille group Daher crossed the billion euros mark in turnover in 2015, to 1.04 billion euros. More than 150 years after its creation, the group has everything a model mid-size company: 8,500 employees, the overwhelming majority of whom are in France; nearly 600 recruitments on permanent contracts in 2015; an order book of 3.5 billion euros, which represents more than three years of sales; and an acquired status of high struggle as a first rank equipment supplier for Airbus (A320, A330, A350, A380, A400), Airbus Helicopters or the American Gulfstream.

How did the hundred-year-old Marseille group, created in 1863 in the maritime transport segment, become a German mid-sized company? Historically present in logistics and specialized transport (elements of nuclear power plants, military deployments, etc.), the family group diversified into industry in the early 2000s, by buying subcontractors in aeronautics and defense. and energy. In 2008, a smoldering blow: Daher acquired Socata, an EADS subsidiary specializing in aerostructures (aircraft fuselage elements) and the manufacture of small business aircraft (TBM), which definitely established it as a player leading market.

Revenue doubled since 2007

Since then, the turnover of the French champion has doubled. “One of our great strengths is the 50-50 balance between our industrial activities and our historical service business”, explains Patrick Daher, the CEO of the group, who will hand over the operational reins of the company to his number two, Didier Kayat, the 1is April. Logistics and transport make it possible to balance the long cycles of industrial activities. “For the A350, we started to invest in 2008, while full production will not be reached until 2018”, emphasizes Didier Kayat.

The group can count on another advantage: if the BPI and the Aerofund fund are 20% shareholders, the group having been the first investment of the former FSI in 2009, the rest of the capital is held by the Daher family, this which allows a long-term strategy without the weight of the half-year results and the stock market price. Moreover, the manufacturer does not publish its operating profit or its margins. “This has enabled us to make extremely heavy investments in the thermoplastics segment, a promising niche in aeronautics, without the competition being aware,” explains Patrick Daher. Our discretion is not a simple coquetry. ”

French “Mittelstand”

Daher endorsed the strategy of the German companies of the Mittelstand, these middleweights champions of export: speak little, act a lot. The group increased its industrial investments by 25% in 2015, to 60 million euros, to support the ramp-up of major programs (A350, A320neo, etc.). It has also integrated in its factories the good practices detected by a specialized unit, the Daher Lab. “The job of this structure is to look at what exists on the market, and take back what is useful,” explains Didier Kayat.

More than 20 POCs (“proof of concept”) were thus taken over in 2015: autonomous vehicles for transporting heavy parts in factories (Automatic guided vehicle, or AGV); RFID tags on the tools of companions (workers) for ensure that none is left behind in the parts manufactured by the group; exoskeletons to help employees with the most tiring tasks. What does not work is dismissed without regret: Google Glass was thus scrapped because it heated the temples of employees too much …

Cost savings

After solid growth in recent years, the group expects a slowdown in its growth: if the ramp-up of the A320 is a positive point, some clouds are still present on the horizon. Business aviation has not emerged from the crisis since 2008. The helicopter market is suffering greatly from the poor health of oil & gas players, one of the main outlets for Airbus Helicopters. The A380 hardly takes off, the A350 will only be at full speed in 2018, and the A330 is in a period of transition between the classic A330, in decline, and the future A330neo, not yet in the series production.

The group must also deal with the requirements of its major customers. “We are asked, as in the whole industry, for a 10 to 20% reduction in costs, underlines Patrick Daher. The question is not to know if it is good or if it is bad: it will have to be done. But I am confident: we are well positioned to be among the winners of the industry transformation that is shaping up for the next ten years. ”

The United States in the crosshairs

The group, which has a strong presence in Europe, is now clearly targeting the American market, where it recently entered by signing four contracts with the business aircraft manufacturer Gulfstream. “We have been discussing for two years with Boeing, which is seriously considering renewing its panel of suppliers, says Didier Kayat. If we sign a big contract with them or with another player in the American market, we will open a factory in the United States, which will be a huge source of growth for us. ”

Daher also wants to capitalize on the success of its small business aircraft TBM 900, delivered in 55 units in 2015. An extension of the range must be announced on April 5 in the historic assembly plant of the group, in Tarbes. “In addition to representing a healthy and growing business, being an aircraft manufacturer ourselves is a real comparative advantage,” assures Didier Kayat. Our customers can see that we are used to complex systems. ” Airbus Group was not mistaken: Daher is in charge of the design and industrialization of its future small Electric E-Fan 2.0 aircraft.

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