Acquisition boosts Inaer's service offerings

 - June 9, 2008, 6:44 AM

With its acquisition of Italian counterpart Elilario, Spanish operator Grupo Inaer has become one of Europe’s largest helicopter operators, with a fleet of nearly 220 rotorcraft. The deal is valued at ?60.8 million ($91 million). Whether the new entity will be called Elilario or Inaer Italy has yet to be decided.

“Inaer’s management team wanted to create a major European group,” Mario Farina, Inaer’s head of international development, told AIN. The company has thrived in the aerial work sector thanks to Spain’s mountainous geography, said Olivier Jouis, executive director of the French helicopter association (UFH). However, it did not have a large presence in either the EMS or offshore oil sector and is looking to Elilario to fill these roles. Elilario has these two sectors in its main businesses, and its Proteus Hélicoptères is a major EMS player in France.

Jouis sees the acquisition of a company with strong offshore business as a good investment for several reasons. First, increasing demand/offer ratio means oil companies will search for oil in places where it is more expensive to extract, increasing the need for helicopter transportation. Moreover, Jouis noted, the bigger the transportation service provider, the stronger its position when negotiating with oil companies, helicopter manufacturers and maintenance providers.

The company’s fleet is highly diversified and ranges from light singles (Bell 206 and 407 and Eurocopter AS 350 Ecureuil) to medium twins (AgustaWestland AW139, Eurocopter AS 365N Dauphin and Sikorsky S-76C+) to the 10-metric-ton S-61N. Inaer also operates 10 Kamov Ka-32s and six Erickson S-64 Aircranes. Elilario has Eurocopter EC 145s and AgustaWestland AW109 Grands and AW139s on order.

In the Iberian peninsula, Inaer is better known under its various brand names such as Helisureste and Helicasa in Spain and Helisul in Portugal. In Italy, Inaer’s two subsidiaries, Elilario and Elidolomiti, will be merged.

In France, Proteus is busy with its EMS business–under agreements with state-controlled hospitals–and a newly secured contract for military training. Proteus has formed a 50-50 joint venture, Helidax, with defense consulting company DCI, to provide 22,000 hours of training to the French Army’s helicopter pilots. The 20-year contract is valued at ?400 million ($600 million). This is the first outsourcing contract for French army pilot training.

In March, Inaer obtained flight permit-issuing privileges from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the engineering and design office of its Helisureste maintenance center. The authorization followed the design organization approval previously issued by the EASA. Helisureste thus gets 100-percent control over all flight-testing approvals for installing still-to-be-certified equipment. Inaer claims this will shave up to one month off the design and certification process.

Inaer also has a fixed-wing division. It operates pistons, turboprops and one jet on air ambulance, public transport, surveillance and firefighting missions.