Brembo wins new Japanese motorcycle and first-time aviation contracts

Italian brake specialist Brembo expects to conclude a supply contract with a fourth high-end Japanese motorbike manufacturer and is also expanding into the aviation sector, Deputy Chairman Matteo Tiraboschi told Reuters in an interview.

Although Tiraboschi declined to give details, a spokesman for Kawasaki Heavy Industries confirmed the group was about to begin using Brembo brakes. A major supplier to Harley Davidson in the United States, Germany’s BMW and VW-owned Ducati in Italy, Brembo had struggled to expand in the Japanese bike market.

That changed when Japanese producers, worst hit when the bike market contracted, decided to pay for premium parts to upgrade their offering to recover market share, Tiraboschi said. Brembo concluded deals with Suzuki and Yamaha in 2012 and Honda in 2013.

Tiraboschi also revealed that Brembo expects to conclude by the end of this year a certification process to supply the aviation industry. He said the company had already signed its first aviation supply contract, details of which would be released later this year. Brembo will focus initially on supplying executive jets and helicopters but hopes that in the longer-term aviation will become one of its business pillars.

“There are many parallels between aerospace and the world of Formula One, allowing us to grow outside the automotive sector using the same skills, technology and materials,” Tiraboschi told Reuters.

Since it was founded in 1961 in a small workshop in Bergamo, near Milan, the family-controlled company has carved out a niche supplying brake discs and calipers to the high-performance motor industry. Ferrari, Porsche and Ducati for example, use them on road and racing vehicles.

Today the company has 7,600 staff and production units in Italy, eastern Europe, China, Brazil and the United States. Components for cars account for about 70 percent of revenues, with the balance split fairly evenly between motorbikes, commercial vehicles and racing.

Brembo has weathered the global economic downturn and the slump in European car sales better than many of its peers. This is partly because of its focus on the premium segment and racing. “Our continuous investment in innovation has paid off,” Tiraboschi said. “Even during the crisis, that’s the budget line we did not cut.” One in 10 of its staff work in R&D, which absorbs 5 percent of the company’s revenue each year.

While Germany and North America between them accounted for nearly half of sales last year, Brembo hopes for a more even spread in future between Asia, Europe and the Americas. It is locating new plants close to where its clients are to be flexible and cut costs. “We want to be domestic in the Americas, Europe and Asia,” Tiraboschi said.

In the past five years it has invested 600 million euros ($800 million) developing production facilities and expects annual capital expenditure will continue to run at about 130 million to 140 million euros for the next few years.

Brembo keeps beating analysts’ forecasts. Its shares have risen about 800 percent since a 40 percent stake was listed on the Milan stock exchange in July 1995. So far this year its share price has risen nearly 45 percent, making it the biggest gainer among Milan’s mid-sized stocks.