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Thales Optronics sees profits jump to £24m

THALES Optronics Limited, which employs hundreds of people at its Glasgow head- quarters and supplies the defence sector, enjoyed a hike in pre-tax profits to £24.4 million last year from £14m in 2010 as revenues increased.

SUCCESS: Thales Optronics Limited designs, develops and manufactures day and night-vision equipment for armed forces. Picture: Marc Turner
SUCCESS: Thales Optronics Limited designs, develops and manufactures day and night-vision equipment for armed forces. Picture: Marc Turner

Accounts which have just become available from Companies House show Thales Optronics Limited, which produces technology for submarine periscopes, achieved this rise in profits as revenues advanced by 8% from £212m to £229m.

The rise in profits at the company, which is the UK optronics subsidiary of French group Thales, is good news for the Scottish engineering sector and the wider economy north of the Border. About 630 people are employed at the Thales UK optronics facility at Linthouse, on the south side of Glasgow.

The Thales UK optronics business designs, develops and manufactures day and night-vision equipment in the form of infra-red cameras, laser range-finders, and television cameras.

The technology is put into more sophisticated systems such as submarine periscopes, airborne reconnaissance systems, armoured vehicle sighting systems, and target locators – which are like binoculars but feature global positioning system technology, a digital compass, laser range-finder, and infra-red camera.

The Ministry of Defence is a major customer of Thales Optronics, which supplies the British Army and Royal Navy.

Thales' UK optronics business, which won a Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2011 for more than doubling overseas revenues over a three-year period, also supplies the armed forces of the US, Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden.

The directors of Thales Optronics Limited say in their report on the company's accounts that they expect revenue growth in coming years through the introduction of new products. They note that £3.24m of research and development expenditure was recognised as an expense in 2011, compared with £4.05m in 2010.

In their business review, the directors say: "Following a year where revenue has increased by 8% due to urgent operational requests, the directors expect the general level of activity to continue at a similar level, and, while industry conditions remain difficult to predict, revenue growth is expected over the coming years primarily through the introduction of new products into the market."

Emphasising a continuing focus on R&D, the directors add: "Thales Optronics has received or is forecasting to receive key contracts over the coming financial periods. In order to maintain the company's position within the specialised defence market, Thales Optronics continues to invest in research and development, as the directors regard investment in this area as a pre-requisite for success in the medium to long-term future."

A spokesman at Thales' UK optronics operation at Linthouse said it had 14 apprentices and 40 graduates on site.

He added that the operation, which celebrates its 125th anniversary next year – having started life in Glasgow as Barr & Stroud – hosts many school visits "with a view to encouraging students to consider science and engineering as a career".

The Linthouse site hosts more than 700 staff, with Thales employees engaged in telecoms and signalling for the rail network in Scotland also based there.

Thales UK has a growing presence at Rosyth, in Fife, where its staff work on the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.

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