Duofu Group acquires 100% equity in leading Italian helicopter manufacturer


Humans have perpetually wanted to streak across the azure skies. In the field of civil aviation, from medical and health, rescue and disaster relief, to agricultural production, scientific experiments, and even education and training and cultural tourism, the general aviation industry is playing an increasingly important role.

The "14th Five-Year Plan for General Aviation Development" proposes to facilitate the development of general aviation for the masses with the goal of meeting the diverse needs of emerging consumers. With the strategic role of general aviation receiving a significant boost, the number of general aviation enterprises in China is also on the rise. Among general aviation aircrafts, helicopters account for a significant share. According to the Aviation Industry Development Research Center of China, the number of civil helicopters in the country will exceed 3,500 by 2027, with a market value of US$ 14.4 billion for helicopter production and sales alone, indicating huge market potential.

Duofu Aviation, a subsidiary of Duofu Group, is committed to the development of the whole industry chain of general aviation, including research on industrial strategy, investment, financing, M&A, cooperation, production, and R&D of helicopters/eVTOL aircrafts/engines, and the construction and operation of airports for general aviation.

On June 28, 2022, Duofu Group acquired the complete equity stake in an Italian helicopter manufacturer, Fama Helicopters. Among domestic private enterprises in the general aviation industry, it is the first cross-border 100% acquisition of a whole chain from R&D, production, and sales to intellectual property rights. The signing and delivery ceremony took place across Milan in Italy, as well as Beijing and Hangzhou in China online, and was attended by signatories such as Duofu Group Chairman Hu Xingrong, the Group's main business leaders, and Fama's legal representative, Antonino Fama.

The signing and delivery ceremony took place across Milan in Italy, as well as Beijing and Hangzhou in China online. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
This acquisition demonstrated that Duofu Group has overcome barriers such as small scale, low investment, and less advanced technology that Chinese general aviation enterprises face in overseas acquisitions. The move also revealed that the Group has become an advanced industry leader in technology and, driven by innovation, it has laid the foundation for localized production and manufacturing, narrowed the gap between China's general aviation industry and internationally advanced levels, providing important support for economic development, and gradually building a new brand image to engage in dialogue with the world.

Fama Helicopters is an advanced manufacturer of light helicopters in Italy, featuring core products such as the Kiss series of multipurpose lightweight single- and twin-engine helicopters and turboshaft engines, all which have been independently developed by Fama. It has clients in more than 10 countries worldwide. Fama helicopters have successfully received airworthiness certification/acceptance from 5 countries around the world, thus ensuring that Duofu Aviation is already one step ahead of peers in accessing the international market.

"Fama's advanced technology is aligned with Duofu Group's strategic requirements." Liao Yunwu, Vice Chairman of Duofu Group and head of Duofu Aviation Industry Group pointed out that in the general aviation field, helicopter technology has a high threshold. Fama's Kiss series helicopters feature a fully integrated carbon fiber fuselage, a turboshaft-engine fueled power system, a main rotor + tail rotor design, and two optional configurations of a skid-mounted landing gear and a retractable landing gear. Its flagship product, K-209M, has a flight distance of 510 km and a maximum cruising speed of 185 km/h. Since its inception, the product's entire fleet has flown safely for more than 40,000 hours with no safety-related accidents.

Fama's Kiss series helicopters. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Fama's Kiss series helicopters. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Compared to another major category of mainstream helicopter engines, i.e., piston engines, Fama's independently developed and produced turboshaft engines (with a fully digital engine control system) are particularly more efficient at high output power and perform better when flying at high altitude. "Engine manufacturing is just like the jewel in the crown of the aviation industry," said Liao Yunwu. Duofu's technology has filled the research gap of light turboshaft helicopter products in the domestic general aviation field.

The current price of an equivalent domestic helicopter is RMB 2.8–3 million. Duofu Aviation expects to dramatically lower the cost and price (expected to be priced at RMB 2 million per unit) through integration of advanced technology with the advantageous manufacturing costs in Wenzhou City, to become the most competitive and highly cost-effective helicopter product in the international market. "Oriented toward the global market, we aim to enable more people to enjoy the development of the general aviation industry with advanced technology, high quality products, and ultimate service," said Liao Yunwu.

After the acquisition is completed, Duofu Aviation will continue to expand its existing helicopter production capacity and establish a Europe-based center for helicopter and engine design and development. This is to improve the R&D of products such as turboshaft engines, electric helicopters, 4–5 seat twin-engine helicopters, eVTOL aircrafts, and drones, based on the original product line.

In the future, Duofu Aviation will also set up an R&D center in China and establish complete production lines for helicopters and engines. Driven by high-tech, the general aviation sector has a strong radiating effect on manufacturing, transportation, and service industries. Duofu Aviation expects to invest a total of RMB 5 billion to gradually build a complete aviation industry chain that covers R&D, manufacturing, sales, and operation, and to push ahead the development of industrial clusters for manufacturing, aircraft leasing, aviation insurance, aviation training bases, aircraft hosting centers, aviation clubs, and logistics hubs. With an aim to support China's general aviation market, Duofu Aviation will engage in helping local governments upgrade the structure of new industries and promote local employment.