CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Africa’s largest privately owned defence company, Paramount Group, is targeting India and Azerbaijan to boost its manufacturing capacity and reach $1 billion turnover by 2015, its chief executive said on Monday.
Paramount has partnered with Indian bus and truck maker Ashok Leyland(ASOK.BO) to build mine-protected vehicles, which the Indians said would be used to combat terrorist and insurgency threats.
“At the moment we are working closely with Ashok Leyland to determine exactly the market potential,” Paramount Chief Executive Ivor Ichikowitz told Reuters on the sidelines of the Africa aerospace and defence exhibition.
“India is not only a huge market because it is a huge country, but it’s also a country that’s actively in peace-keeping operations around the world and it’s also a country that has a large border to protect,” Ichikowitz said.
Ashok is already the largest supplier of logistics vehicles to the Indian army, and Ichikowitz said a business plan for the Indian market should be finalised by mid-2011 to take advantage of a “large tender” for mine-protected vehicles.
He was speaking at the launch of Paramount’s ix-wheeled infantry fighting vehicle, which designers claimed could withstand a mine blast equivalent to 10 kg of TNT anywhere under its hull.
“We’ve identified Ashok Leyland as a very good technical partner to develop an affordable product which will be sold into the global market,” Ichikowitz said.
Paramount, which is headquarted in South Africa, also recently established a manufacturing plant in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.
“We have in fact established a manufacturing plant which is up and running, making two variants of our mine protected armoured personnel carriers, primarily for peace-keeping operations and for border patrol,” said Ichikowitz.
The plant, which has the backing of president Ilham Aliyev and the ministry of defence, currently makes between five to seven vehicles a month, but could ramp up significantly.
Ichikowitz said Paramount was in discussions with the government to increase the range of operations, from main vehicle systems to sub systems, with the view of developing a land forces industry in the country.
“No country has ever been able to develop from a third world country into a first world economy without an active aerospace and defence industry,” he said.
Paramount is also working with governments in the Middle East to establish manufacturing facilities and is also a major shareholder in aerospace company Aerosud.
Aerosud supplies parts to Boeing(BA.N), AirbusEAD.PA as well as making elements of the Eurofighter Typhoon military jet.
(Editing by David Cowell)
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