Strata to ramp up jobs, production after air show order wins

Strata Manufacturing aerospace parts makerbased in Al Ain, is planning to ramp up hiring for new production lines after winning several contracts in the summer, according to the company’s deputy chief executive.

Strata, a key strategic holding within Mubadala Development Corporation’s aerospace and defence portfolio – which includes Avanti turboprop aircraft maker Piaggio Aerospace, as well as the Emirates Defence Industries group of firms – has ambitions to establish itself as one of the world’s leading composite aerospace parts manufacturers.

“We want to be one of the top key suppliers in the world,” said deputy chief executive Ismail Abdulla.


“Our first six years were about building the reputation of company by delivering quality products on time,but we haven’t reached cruising altitude yet,” he added.

Strata said on Sunday that it made its first deliveries on parts for the Airbus A330neo, as well as a Saab sub-contract for A350–1000 wing parts.

In July at the Farnborough show, Strata won contracts with a combined value of US$1 billion to make inboard flaps for Airbus A350-900 wings, and the horizontal tail plane for the Airbus A320, which will run initially through 2032.

The company also won a multi-year contract to make vertical fins for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner family of aircraft worth “hundreds of millions”, said Mr Abdulla, who added that the Al Ain facility would be hiring an additional 350 people to deliver the new contracts, bringing total employment there to just above 1,000.

The company started production in 2010, leveraging the UAE’s fast-growing airlines and their aircraft purchasing power, with product lines including wing and fin parts for Airbus 330, 340 and 380, as well as Boeing’s 777 and 787, and some “tier one” original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Saab and Alenia Aermacchi.

Revenue rose from Dh60 million in its first year to above Dh400m last year. For the first half of this year, revenue is at Dh192m, up from Dh144m for last year’s first six months, and Strata executives say the company expects to break even next year on revenue of more than Dh500m, with a revenue target of Dh1billion by 2020.

“We have studied the market and what we have noted talking to the some of the big OEMs is that they want a handful of key suppliers around them,” said Mr Abdulla. “We will be doing that internally here and also by looking at opportunities to expand in other countries around the world.”

Last year, chief executive Badr Al Olama said Strata was studying expansion in North Africa as its first step internationally.

“North Africa seems to be a viable market. It opens up a gateway into southern Europe and into more the western side of the world,” he said at the time, and Strata confirmed on Sunday that option is still being studied.

Strata expects that the downturns on some product lines will be balanced by growing volume in others, said Mr Abdulla, addressing comments last week by the Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg warning that 777 production could be cut from about 100 a year to as low as 42 a year from next year.

“We don’t see any major contracts running off,” he said. “When a programme runs down there is usually a programme that ramps up – the 777 goes down, the 777x go up. There has been a drop communicated on the A380, but we believe there will be a compensation with other contracts”, such as the A350.

Strata forms the keystone of Mubadala’s Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park, a 5 square kilometre aerospace free zone which Mr Abdulla says has ambitions to become an industry cluster along the lines of Seattle and Toulouse, homes to Boeing and Airbus, respectively.

Strata was the first greenfield project at Nibras, which Mr Abdulla ran until he took his current role earlier this year.

Nibras has leased 60 per cent of its space, with tenants including Etihad Flight College, Horizon International Training Academy, The Advanced Military Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Centre and Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments Company.

“Strata itself has already taken around 1.7 million square feet to cater for the growth that we are planning for,” says Mr Abdulla.

amcauley@thenational.ae

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