LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica's British unit plans to double its focus on civilian helicopters as government cutbacks to military spending force more defence firms to search for new streams of revenue.
AgustaWestland, which mainly makes helicopters for Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Yeovil, south west England, plans to increase the proportion of its income from civil aviation to 30 percent from 15 percent, it said.
'We can't be that singular, dominantly reliant on one customer,' managing director Ray Edwards told reporters at the company's headquarters on Tuesday.
'If we were roundabout 50 percent in our MoD business, 20 percent in our international business... and 30 percent on our commercial business I think that would be very good,' he said without specifying a time frame.
About 80 percent of the company's revenue came from business with the MoD five years ago, until it 'became clear' that the company could not continue with its existing strategy, Chairman Graham Cole said.
AgustaWestland is the latest defence firm to revamp its business to cope with tightening budgets by the sector's biggest spenders, the U.S. and British governments, by focusing on overseas markets such as the Middle East or selling to the commercial sector.
Britain's government pledged in 2010 to slash its defence spending by 8 percent by 2014 while the U.S. already has plans in place to cut $487 billion from its defence budget for the next decade. The latter could also make another series of spending cuts in March under a process known as sequestration.
AgustaWestland made 3.9 billion euros ($5.3 billion) in revenue in 2011, about 60 percent of which currently comes from contracts with the MoD with another 25 percent from overseas deals, it said. The unit accounted for 23 percent of Finmeccanica's revenue in 2011.
The company plans to invest more than 100 million pounds ($157 million) on a civil aviation base in Yeovil to build AW189 search and rescue helicopters. It estimates that the division will be able to export at least 200 helicopters over the next decade, generating 2 billion pounds in revenue.
At present, AgustaWestland is in the running to be part of a 10-year contract to supply Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency with about ten search and rescue helicopters which could be the first order for the civil aviation unit.
($1=0.7392 euros=0.6389 British pounds)
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Mike Nesbit) Keywords: FINMECCANICA AGUSTAWESTLAND
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