Canadian Helicopters says Afghanistan mission offsets domestic economic weakness

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Canadian Helicopters Income Fund (TSX:CHL.UN) says its growing contracts with the U.S. military in Afghanistan are more than helping to offset weakness at home caused by the economic recession.
The Montreal-based helicopter transportation provider said the contracts to move people and supplies from an undisclosed U.S. military base helped to increase 2009 revenues by $3.3 million to $154.2 million.
Long-term relationships with governments, the military and utilities have exposed less than its regionally-based competitors to unpredictable swings in the economy, chief executive Don Wall told unitholders Thursday at its annual meeting.
Unitholders approved plans to convert to a corporation on Jan. 1. The company, to be known as Canadian Helicopter Group Inc., expects to pay a dividend of nearly 9.2 cents per share, providing the same payment that currently exists under its structure as an income trust.
Two of three contracts with the U.S. Air Force valued at $25.9 million over five years were renewed in 2009. It lost a $10.3-million contract to provide maintenance services due to a lower bid from another Canadian competitor.
Canadian Helicopter has won additional military work this year that could exceed US$35 million by November 2011 if all options are exercised.
It is providing two fully crewed Sikorsky S61 heavy category helicopters.
Wall said the expanded mandate in Afghanistan is a significant development because it "broadens still further our long term relationship with the U.S. military."
The fund expects 2010 will be another challenging year in natural resources with a recovery starting to materialize in 2011.
Canadian Helicopters is the largest helicopter transportation services company operating in Canada and one of the largest in the world, serving primarily the resource industries.
On the Toronto Stock Exchange, its units fell nine cents to $12.16 in midday trading.

Organizations: Canadian Helicopters Income Fund, TSX, Canadian Helicopter Group U.S. Air Force Toronto Stock Exchange

Geographic location: Afghanistan, U.S., Canada

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