Airplane seats maker Thompson Aero flying high under Chinese ownership

Thompson Aero Seating provides seats for many of the world's leading airlines
Thompson Aero Seating provides seats for many of the world's leading airlines Thompson Aero Seating provides seats for many of the world's leading airlines

A PROMINENT manufacturer within the north's near-£2 billion aerospace sector is flying high after doubling its sales and pre-tax profits in its first full year under Chinese ownership.

Thomson Aero Seating in Portadown, which makes premium business-class full flat-bed airline seating for clients like Qantas, American Airlines and Air Canada, has posted a stellar set of results at Companies House covering the 2017 calendar year.

They reveal that turnover soared to £105.1 million from £52.1m in 2016 (although those accounts covered just a nine-month period, hence the larger upwards swings).

Gross profit came in at £19.6m while Thompson had a profit on ordinary activities of £10.7m.

And after a £1.7m tax return on profits, on a bottom-line basis the company retained £12.4m in profits against just £3.5m in the previous nine-month period.

That means the shareholders' funds in the company - which is now owned by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) - swelled from £35.5m to £47.7m.

The company also benefited during the year from £2,787,630 of government grants (just £21,678 was eceived in 2016).

The directors described the company's performance as "satisfactory", though on the sources of its sale of goods, they added that it would be "seriously prejudicial to the interests of the company to disclose information regarding turnover".

Thompson Aero Seating, which is recognised internationally for its cutting edge design,engineering and manufacture of airline seats, came under the ownership of AVIC in December 2016.

The change to a China parent firm has been hugely beneficial to Thompson, which has built healthy order book, has broken into more global markets, and is understood to be on the cusp of unveiling a new product for a new customer.

The company - which operates from manufacturing bases at Seagoe Industrial Estate in Co Armagh and in Banbridge -said it was looking forward to expanding its capacity after the AVIC deal.

Its current directorship team comprises just former Bombardier man Gary Montgomery (who's been chief executive for seven years) and Mr W Huang, who was appointed in February last year.

The total directors' remuneration was £573,502 compared to £720,976 in 2016 (where there were five directors).

Employee numbers at the company rose from 364 to 543 (more than 180 production staff alone were recruited).

This in turn saw the overall wages bill almost double to £23.9m.

AVIC is a large business managed by Chinese central government, and its multi-million pound purchase of Thompson Aero two years ago made it the third Chinese company to buy a Northern Ireland asset.

That followed SDC Trailers in Toomebridge being snapped up by CIMC Vehicles, while renewable energy firm Gaelectric sold seven of its Northern Ireland wind farms to part of China General Nuclear Power Group.