IMS EMEA Newsletter Issue 2 - March 2010


Dealing with the ups and downs of this recession


Vol2-2John Belcher, Chief Executive, explains

Chief executive John Belcher credits the diversity and global nature of the ARINC business for the company’s ability to hold its own, and more, during one of the worst downturns in living memory. “We achieved double-digit earnings and revenue growth last year,” he says. “Our breadth of expertise has truly helped us deal with the ups and downs of this recession.”

He also acknowledges the backing of ARINC’s owners, venture capital company the Carlyle Group: “They acquired the business two years ago and the partnership is working extremely well.”

The advent of Carlyle ushered in profound changes at ARINC. “Before that we were owned primarily by six US major airlines, several of which were in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the time,” says Belcher. “Carlyle’s $90 billion investment portfolio gives us access to the capital we need to move forward and continue our growth. On top of that, we enjoy a lot of synergy with other companies in the Carlyle portfolio.”  

Which ARINC products and services were in the spotlight last year? “Our airports business grew most strongly in Asia. In Europe and the Middle East our GLOBALink air-to-ground communications business benefited from increased spend - we invested in new ground stations, most recently in Cape Town in readiness for the football World Cup this summer.”

Europe and the Middle East were also the scene of some major airports activity. After ten years of operations at London Heathrow the company won a contract renewal covering the common-use check-in and departure systems available to 62 airlines at Terminals 1 and 3. The Middle East saw ARINC systems integration work contributing to the successful opening of new terminals in Cairo and Dubai. A major project continues at the new Doha International in Qatar, and ARINC is bidding for at least four new deals in the Gulf region.  

In North America the company was particularly active in surface transportation and security projects. “So between our three global markets we got the growth we wanted,” Belcher comments.

ARINC has a growing presence in the corporate/VIP aviation market through its ARINC Direct package of services. “This was a real winner in 2009. We now support 2,000 aircraft in the USA and 300 in Europe and the Middle East - a hundred more than the previous year. We’re intent on expanding into Asia, where we have a small existing customer base, and we see further strong growth in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The owner-operators and companies who have signed up for ARINC Direct recognise its value and have proved to be our best advertisement.”

Voice and data communications form a key part of ARINC Direct and the company’s broader offering. “We’re big believers in connectivity in aircraft,” Belcher declares. “We started out with HF voice communications over the oceans, then moved on to VHF ACARS, Inmarsat and Iridium satcoms, and HF datalink to develop a complete worldwide connectivity capability. Whatever may be coming in this domain, we’ll be ready.”

HF datalink (HFDL) is currently a particular focus for ARINC. “As a high-tech company we can sometimes be years early with our offerings,” Belcher explains. “With HFDL we were probably four years ahead of the market. It’s a great technology and now we have to help our customers understand what it can do.”  

Other markets are developing fast, according to the ARINC chief executive. “We’re taking our systems integration expertise and applying it not only in other areas of transportation but also in some sectors that are new to us,” he says. “Security of key infrastructure is a huge growth area. In the past two years we have built up our presence, starting with perimeter security for the nuclear industry and moving on to apply those technologies to airports and railways – we now have systems in 70 per cent of the USA’s rail control centres.”

In a related development, the company has set out to simplify communications for emergency responders at local and national level. “Fire, police, ambulance and coastguard services use a wide variety of radio technologies, leading to compatibility problems that can hamper vital communications,” Belcher explains. “We have teamed with international partners EADS and Cisco to market worldwide our Wireless Interoperable Network Solutions (AWINS), which is designed to provide a common IP-based hub for a whole range of communications technologies.”

First demonstrated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the southern USA in 2005, AWINS can be implemented as part of a fixed infrastructure or aboard mobile command vehicles. Just after Katrina struck, an ARINC team helped the New Orleans fire department to set up an AWINS-based communications hub for co-ordination of the multiple agencies hurrying into the city as part of the rescue and recovery effort.

“Now we’re looking to extend AWINS to airports,” says Belcher. “A major incident on the airfield calls for the intervention of several different services – AWINS will allow them to talk to each other readily as they work to co-ordinate their response.”

Other objectives for the coming year include continued growth in ARINC’s share of the Asia-Pacific airports market. “We aim to build on our successes at places like Singapore Changi, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and Melbourne,” says Belcher. “It’s a fiercely competitive market - in any one year we can find ourselves involved in as many as 15 bids and rebids as airport operators push to find a single supplier to handle both back-office IT and passenger information and check-in. It’s tough, but success will put us in a very strong position for the future.”



IMS EMEA Newsletters 


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