BBA Aviation divisions see slow business in ’09
BBA Aviation’s Aftermarket Services and Systems and Flight Support divisions have weathered the recession with a modest 7-percent drop in revenue for 2009. The downturn began as far back as the first quarter of 2008, according to BBA CEO Simon Pryce. “That’s continued through 2009 and really troughed in March of ,” he said.
Overall, business aviation flying hours dropped 34 percent in North America and 23 percent in Europe from peak to trough, according to Pryce. “But what’s pleasing to see is that through to the end of , certainly in November and December, we actually saw business and general aviation flying hours return to month-on-month growth.”
BBA Aviation (Booth No. 7070) consists of a number of companies, including businesses in the Engine Repair and Overhaul, Legacy Support and APPH subgroups. The group’s activities break down to 63 percent business aviation, 30 percent commercial and 7 percent military. In the Flight Support division, 68 percent of its business is concentrated on the business aviation market (102 Signature Flight Support FBOs) with 32 percent commercial aviation (ASIG). Aftermarket Services and Systems splits its activities into 56 percent business aviation, 26 percent commercial and 18 percent military.
Although Signature Flight Support revenue dropped 26 percent last year, when lower fuel prices are taken into account the organic revenue drop for the FBOs was 7 percent, according to BBA Aviation’s annual report. “Signature consistently outperformed the market through 2009,” said Pryce, commenting on recently announced financial results. “Compared to a market decline in North America of 19 percent, Signature’s organic revenue declined by 8 percent and in Europe revenue was flat on an organic basis compared to a market contraction of 14 percent. For the first time since the end of 2007, Signature North America experienced modest organic volume growth of 3 percent in the last quarter of  compared to the same period in 2008. This has continued in the first few weeks of 2010.”
Signature did undergo head-count reductions early last year, with loss of 142 full-time equivalent jobs. The company also instituted demand-based staffing, which placed some staff on a part-time basis concentrated on peak times at the FBOs, eliminating overstaffing during slow times. This resulted in loss of 203 full-time equivalent jobs.
Aftermarket Services and Systems revenue was down 3 percent in 2009 versus 2008, when foreign exchange translation is taken into account, but down 17 percent on an organic basis, “reflecting the later-cycle impact of the lower flying activity on engine repair events and demand for other services in the aftermarket business,” according to BBA’s annual report.
Engine Repair and Overhaul also had a headcount reduction of about 22 percent since 2008. However, the division has continued expanding and adding new authorizations and also won long-term contracts with the Brazilian air force, Avantair and Hawker Beechcraft Services. The expansion, according to CEO Pryce, “is to allow our engine repair and overhaul business to get closer to its customers. As the business and general aviation fleet, in particular, but also the regional jet fleet, continues to migrate away from its traditional centers in North America and Europe, there’s an increasing weight of aircraft in more far-flung locations like South America, like Asia Pacific.”
Last year, BBA opened a regional turbine center in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and established agency relationships in Mumbai, India; and Johannesburg, South Africa. “We’ll continue to see the development of that customer-facing network within our Engine Repair and Overhaul operations, as the fleet continues to migrate and to build in nontraditional markets,” Pryce said.
BBA’s APPH division fared worse during the downturn. “I think APPH is the one business where perhaps we underestimated how the impact of this global financial crisis and economic recession would impact the top line of the business,” said Pryce. “The business has responded very well and effectively to deal with that very significant volume decline. But because it’s actually principally exposed to commercial aviation cycles and military aftermarket cycles, we don’t expect to see a significant recovery in APPH for some time to come. Against that background, therefore, we’re looking very hard at how we drive operational efficiency in the short term and set the business up well to benefit when its markets do begin to turn.”
BBA Aviation is keeping a close watch on competitors for possible acquisition targets.