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Chinese seating manufacturer seeks way into the extended Chinese submarket
ZHUHAI, China (Reuters) - China is pushing itself into a niche for airplane seating - a minor expense in comparison to a plan for a Sino-Russian jettliner or army at this week's China Airshow, but one that could give it a pivotal place in worldwide delivery as well.
Seat shortages have disturbed the manufacture of jetliners and have been a big worry for West aircraft manufactures in recent years as they have been unable to keep pace with the boom in aviation and the increasing need for customisation. The consolidation has already transformed the market: first B/E Aerospace became part of the US Rockwell Collins operation, then French Zodiac Aerospace got an offer of independence and was taken over by Safran.
"It' s a great opportunity," Wu Si, head of distribution at Jiatai Airport Equipment Co Ltd, a wholly owned affiliate of the state-owned AVIC space company, said to Reuters. China' seat growth is a reflection of China's desire to expand its role as a major provider of overseas airframe manufacturers, while at the same time enhancing the capabilities and post-sales experiences required to grow its own airframe manufacturing business, said analysts.
AVIC's seating is not immediately visible at China's biggest aviation show, where it is hidden in a nook behind fighter advertisements. Since 1995, Jiatai has been active in the seating market, mainly delivering Chinese airplanes such as the Xian MA60 turbo prop. However, it is accelerating its involvement in overseas operations, emboldened by Airbus and Boeing, who are still pleased with Zodiac's delay due to a manufacturing crash and are working to ensure a seamless seating service.
Xinhua, the state-owned Chinese press agent, last weeks announced that Airbus has shipped its first Jiatai-seat version of the Airbus 320. Boeing said at the show that it had recently added Jiatai's product range to its catalogue of available seating for its best-selling 737s. This step "continues the knock-on effect on seating suppliers," such as Recaro, Zodiac and B/E Aerospace, said Agency Partners in a statement.
The most recent earnings spreads are a poor indicator due to manufacturing issues, but in 2016, last year before the delisting, B/E Aerospace had an operational spread of 16. According to the analyst, the premiums for prime seat are particularly high, but the main focus of China's market is on economic seat sales. According to Jiatai, it has a seatacity of 20,000 per year - enough for about 130 mid-range aircraft - but produces only 13,000-14,000 units.
There is a real danger that certification barriers for each new seating option and performance maintenance will be even more demanding than for the long-time expert Zodiac, said industry experts. Jiatai Cai Li, Jiatai Director of Marketing, says: "It will take a while for the markets to embrace our name.