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Security concerns boost BEL's defence orders
Fakir Chand in Bangalore | April 16, 2003 18:46 IST
Bharat Electronics Ltd, India's leading enterprise in the strategic sector, has seen a spurt in order from the defence services and the Union home ministry for the supply of hi-tech equipment and communication products to address the growing security concerns of the country.
In the light of continued border tension and heightened threat perception to the country's external and internal security, the three defence services have stepped up their requirements for battle-geared products and systems.
"After a gradual decline in orders from defence services and security agencies before the Kargil war in 1999, we have seen a revival in our order book, with 78 per cent of it coming from our core defence customers and the remaining 22 per cent from the civilian sector," disclosed V K Koshy, chairman and managing director of BEL in Bangalore on Wednesday.
Out of the 78 per cent business from its main customer, orders from the Indian Army alone constitutes 60 per cent, followed by the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy, with 25 and 15 per cent respectively.
As a result, the company's defence orders surged from 70-72 per cent to 78-80 per cent.
For the new fiscal year 2003-04, the company's order position is at Rs 6,930 crore (Rs 69.30 billion), stated to be the highest ever achieved by it.
Similarly, the Union home ministry has stepped up its surveillance requirements by placing a huge order with BEL to supply a countrywide satellite-based communication network for the police and paramilitary forces (Polnet), being set up on a turnkey basis.
"To meet the latest requirements of defence and security services, BEL is developing technology solutions for multiple purposes such as battlefield surveillance and management systems, network-based command and control systems, state-of-the-art displays for the navy, modules for futuristic radars and networking gateways for military applications," Koshy stated.
The public sector undertaking has also taken up the serial production of the updated Flycatcher radar for deployment by the army in the border areas.
Likewise, the army has placed orders for the supply of the medium-range battlefield surveillance radar, developed with technology from Elta, an Israeli firm.
BEL is also rolling out short-range battlefield surveillance radars, designed and developed by the Electronic Research and Development Establishment, a research and development organisation in Bangalore.
In addition, the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with LRDE to develop radars for the Advanced Light Helicopter being produced by the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd for the three services and the Indian Coast Guard.
"To improve the night vision capabilities of the security forces in the forward areas for preventing infiltration and containing cross-border terrorism, BEL has bagged a huge order from the Army to supply hand-held thermal imagers.
"Our Machilipatnam unit on the Andhra coast has developed the thermal technology in collaboration with another Israeli firm, Elop. As a result, the unit's turnover shot up to Rs 262 crore (Rs 2.62 billion) during the fiscal year 2002-03. More orders have been placed to double the supply," Koshy asserted.
BEL has also been selected by the Indian Space Research Organisation for the supply of electronic subsystems and critical components that go into its Insat transponders.
With the lifting of the post-Pokhran sanctions by the US on import of sensitive defence and space technology or products, BEL has resumed outsourcing its critical parts from American firms.
"Our New York office is handling the import of high-end technology and products, and during the just-concluded fiscal year 2002-03, our purchase from the US firms has gone up to $30 million," Koshy told rediff.com.
Meanwhile, the Bangalore-based enterprise has declared that its turnover for FY 2003 grew by 32 per cent to Rs 2571 crore (Rs 25.71 billion) and posted a net profit of Rs 275 crore (Rs 2.75 billion) against Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) netted in the previous fiscal year (2001-02).
Similarly, exports went up by 56 per cent to Rs 48 crore (Rs 480 million) from Rs 31 crore (Rs 310 million) in the corresponding period.