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The first footprints on the moon didn't come from Neil Armstrong, but from Hexcel, a maker of composite materials. Back then Hexcel made the footpads on the Apollo 11 lunar module; today the company makes advanced structural materials used in everything from aircraft components to wind turbine blades. Its composite materials include structural adhesives – more... and honeycomb panels used in products like satellites, auto parts, golf clubs, and even window blinds. Commercial aerospace companies account for nearly 60% of Hexcel's sales; governmental space and defense sales and industrial sales account for the rest. Markets for Hexcel industrial products include wind energy, recreational equipment, and transportation.

Hexcel operates in the Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe, and Russia. It also holds an interest in a manufacturing joint venture in Malaysia that makes composite structures for the company's Commercial Aerospace segment.

The company's advanced composites are divided into two main segments: Composite Materials and Engineered Products. Composite Materials include carbon fiber, resins, specialty reinforcements, prepegs (resins impregnated with fibers) and other fiber-reinforced materials, and honeycomb core products. Engineered Products include lightweight high-strength composite structures, molded components, and specialty machined honeycomb products. The end markets for Hexcel's products make up its three main sales segments: Commercial Aerospace (its largest segment), Space and Defense, and Industrial.

Struggling to keep pace with the double-digit growth in sales it enjoyed before the global economic recession, Hexcel has cut down on spending. However, it continues to add production capacity in key areas and to develop new products. It seeks new opportunities for both its Composite Materials and Engineered Products segments to compensate for weakened demand from defense markets. Among trends it hopes to capitalize on is the use by helicopter manufacturers of new rotor blades based on composite materials for better lift and durability. Hexcel also focuses on growth markets where it believes it can achieve a competitive advantage over the long term.

The company's strategy has succeeded, with demand for Hexcel composites -- used to build both Airbus and Boeing aircraft -- soaring. Production rates for the super jumbo A380 of Airbus and the ramp up of Boeing's new B787 and B747-8 jets have helped grow Hexcel's sales by 40% each year for the last four years. The company's involvement in major product development with both Boeing and Airbus have driven its sales increases. Hexcel has been a major parts supplier for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 Series, as well as the Airbus A360 and A380, all aircraft that have a large amount of advanced composite parts.

Hexcel gets about 30% of its total sales from contracts from Boeing and related contractors (25% for its Commercial Aerospace segment and 5% for its Space and Defense segment). European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), including its Airbus division and subcontractors, account for another quarter of the company's total sales. The Space and Defense segment has worked on a number of military projects, including Blackhawk helicopters, the F/A-18 Hornet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and the EADS A400M military transport.

An increasingly important market sector for Hexcel is wind energy. Although Vestas Wind Systems accounted for as much as 12% of Hexcel's total sales in earlier years, wind energy revenues for that company have been down and Vestas has been reorganizing its European operations. In 2011 and 2010, Vestas accounted for less than 10% of Hexcel's total annual sales.

In 2011 Hexcel reported about $1.4 billion in sales, a 19% increase over the previous year due to higher sales and volumes in all its segments, but especially in its Commercial Aerospace unit. On the strength of the company's solid sales volumes and cost control measures, Hexcel's net income reached $135.5 million in 2011, a jump of more than 75% over the previous year.

Driven by new aircraft programs and higher build rates, Hexcel's Commercial Aerospace segment achieved more than $823.5 million in sales, about 59% of the company's total sales, in 2011. Sales in the segment represented a 28% hike over the previous year. Airbus and Boeing and their subcontractors contributed 82% of the segment's sales. Regional and business aircraft contracts made up the remaining 18%.

The company's Space and Defense segment recorded net sales of $319.4 million in 2011, a 2% increase over 2010. About half of Hexcel's sales in this segment come from rotorcraft programs, including both commercial and military programs, from the Americas, Europe, and Asia/Pacific regions.

Hexcel's Industrial segment added another $249.5 million in 2011, a 14% increase over the previous year. The wind energy market grew sales by 15% in 2011 over the previous year, although sales from the segment's largest customer, Vestas Wind Systems, have declined over the past two years. – less

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