Brittany-based Socomore has been present in China for around 15 years and is banking on strong growth in Asia to boost its export business in coming years. It is bolstering its presence in China through its involvement in a new facility that is due t
Socomore, which has been officially classified as an entreprise de taille intermédiaire (medium-sized business) since 2017, is a familiar face at the Singapore Airshow. A specialist in the preparation, protection, treatment and inspection of metallic and composite materials for aerospace applications (85% of sales), the company will be exhibiting in the French Pavilion at this year's show.
Socomore CEO Frédéric Lescure underlines the importance of showing that French industry is collectively targeting the vast Asian market: “Above all it is an opportunity to present 'French Fab', which is following in the footsteps of 'French Tech'. We should be proud of that.”
Lescure lists a number of features that are specific to the Asian region, where he identifies three types of market. The first — and the fastest-growing — is maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), which he sees offering potential at all levels. Access to this market, he notes, is via distributors, and qualification requirements are stringent. The second market is linked to subcontracting and the presence of top-tier primes like Airbus and Boeing. Finally, he lists a third market generated by the emergence of facilities operated by the Big Two but also by their emerging local rivals (Comac, Mitsubishi, etc) in China, Japan and South Korea. Lescure believes that French suppliers need to support these firms as they grow.
€10m in Asia
Socomore expects to generate sales of around €10m in Asia in 2018, and this figure is forecasted to grow rapidly in coming years. Within five years, the company is targeting 20% of sales in this region. Part of this growth will come from Japan, where Socomore is reaping the rewards of the aerospace coating agreement concluded with Lord Corporation in 2016.
The company recently concluded another external growth operation that will help to reinforce its Japanese activities. The operation, announced in early January, concerns Sea to Sky Innovations, which has become Socomore's 20th subsidiary. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Sea to Sky is a specialist in water-based paint strippers for aviation and infrastructure, with sales of less than $10m.
Lescure explains that this operation fills out the Socomore product line while strengthening the company's worldwide manufacturing foothold. He notes that Sea and Sky not only possesses very effective technology; it also has subsidiaries in Japan and the UK.
Socomore has already set itself a target of three or four external growth operations per year. It is currently finalising a new round of funding with its historical partners, including CM-CIC.
Meanwhile, Socomore is reinforcing its presence in China. The next milestone will come in mid-2018 with the entry into service of a new facility producing industrial chemicals for the Chinese aerospace market. This 5,000m2 plant has been built in partnership with China's Haas Finechem, which, like Socomore, is a member of the Aerochemicals alliance. Socomore was one of the founding members of this worldwide alliance, created in 2002, which counts 13 SMEs that have agreed to pool their production capacities as required.
In other news, Socomore is pursuing a recruitment drive to reinforce its workforce in France. The company is also expanding its laboratory facilities and building out its administrative premises in Vannes. The new buildings, covering more than 3,000m2 and representing an investment of more than €5m, are scheduled to be inaugurated in May 2019, in time for the group to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
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