Helisul’s $36m acquisition of Ecocopter is ‘springboard for growth’

Helisul has acquired Ecopter.

Helisul's acquisition of Ecopter makes it Latin America's largest rotary operator.

When Brazilian heli services firm Helisul completed its $36m acquisition of Chilean operator Ecocopter, it became Latin America’s largest rotary wing business. It also acquired “a springboard for international growth”, according to the upbeat assessment of Humberto Biesuz, executive director of Helisul.

“Given the growth in demand in the Brazilian market, we are strategically leveraging the counter-seasonal synergy between Brazil and Chile,” Biesuz told Helicopter Investor. “This synergy, especially regarding the regional fires, presents a unique opportunity for us. During the counter-season, we can combat fires in Brazil and operate in other markets such as energy, mining, and seismography.”

Biesuz says the acquisition is a key part of its expansion strategy and will deliver international business synergies. “The acquisition not only strengthens our operational capacity but also allows us to implement a unique multinational operation model, paving the way for further expansion in Latin America,” he says.

Ecocopter, based near Santiago, Chile operates a range of aircraft including Airbus Helicopters H125/ EC135/H135s, H145s and Aircrane S-64s. Marcelo Rajchman, corporate CEO of Ecocopter welcomed the merge of the two businesses: “We are proud to join forces with Helisul. Together, our companies share a common philosophy of responsible growth and a commitment to safety, which is paramount for market recognition,” he said.

Own maintainence centre

The Chilean firm specialises in external cargo transport, offshore operations, forest fire fighting, construction, inspection, and maintenance of power lines, aeromedical transport, and many other activities. It also runs its own maintenance centre and an engine workshop, focusing on Safran engines.

Launched more than 50 years ago, Helisul now operates rotary- and fixed-wing services cross three countries – Brazil, Chile and Ecuador. Its recent acquisition of 100% of Ecocopter’s shares takes the combined fleet to more than 80 aircraft. The business, based in Curitiba, in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, serves a range of sectors including: Aeromedical transport, charter and tourism flights, specialised air missions, including disaster relief, fire-fighting operations, powerlines construction, inspection and maintenance, aerogeophysics ,environmental protection , in addition to aircraft maintenance and FBO services.

Helisul reports rapidly rising demand for public safety rotary wing missions. “Brazil’s escalating instances of public calamities, whether natural disasters or security-related, are creating a significant demand for public services and support delivered via helicopter missions,” Biesuz tells Helicopter Investor. “This includes both police services and state assistance, as well as the burgeoning Brazilian aeromedical market with its requirements for IFR [Instrument Flight Rules] operations and twin-engine services.”

Completing the operator’s conventional aircraft fleet, its division Helisul Drones offers remotely piloted aircraft services.  This operates in specialised segments such as operations at airports and other areas with congested air traffic. Remotely piloted flights include missions conducted on the basis of both extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
Industries served for both conventional aircraft and drones include energy (in the form of inspection and monitoring, mining, aerial survey, inspection, remote sensing and logistics), infrastructure, private security and agricultural spraying.

‘Shortage of materials’

While Biesuz remains optimistic about the prospects for international growth after the acquisition of Ecocopter, rotary wing supply chain challenges show little sign of significant improvement – at least in the short term. “The main issue we currently face in the general aviation market is the supply chain,” he says. “There is a shortage of materials in the market, heavily impacted by both the pandemic and the slowdown in product or raw material manufacturing, as well as by the ongoing wars between Russia and Ukraine, and now also Israel.”

But Helisul’s acquisition of Ecocopter and the combined 1,000-strong workforce will help the new business overcome short-term difficulties, says Biesuz. “We gain a lot in availability and integration of the supply chain, parts, and inventory from the acquisition. And especially, the representativeness and size of the fleet and the scope of the operation. There are some expansion opportunities in view and Uruguay appears as an opportunity.”

Meanwhile, read our report on Brazilian offshore operations from our CJI & HI Latin America 2024 conference here.