Bristow Helicopters says European business at record levels but pays out �1.4m in severance costs following loss of Southern North Sea contract

Helicopter operator Bristow saw profits in Europe fall after it took a �1.4m hit following the loss of a key contract in the southern North Sea, it emerged yesterday.

The firm transports 50,000 passengers in and out of gas fields in the southern North Sea through its terminal at Norwich International Airport, with an average of 480 flights a month during the peak summer periods, and also operates flights from Humberside.

In its latest financial results, the US-owned company said its global turnover (operating revenue) increased 12pc from �183m ($286.8m) to �205m ($320.7m), while it also disclosed it had paid out about $2m (�1.3m) in compensation relating 'to the departure of an officer of the company', though no further details were given.

For its European operation, which includes the UK, turnover increased from �69.2m ($108.3m) to �79m ($123m), but pre-tax profits (operating income) fell from �14.8m ($23.2m) to �14m ($21.9m). However, it said that North Sea tender activity was at 'historic levels' and Europe makes up 39pc of its turnover and had enjoyed recent contract wins in the northern North Sea and Norway.

In the southern North Sea, Bristow has operated flights for Shell, Conoco Phillips and BP, to take staff to and from offshore rigs – however, the EDP understands that it recently lost the Shell contract. But it would not disclose to which deal the payment was linked, stating only that it related to a special charge of $2.2m (�1.4m) for 'severance costs related to the termination of a contract in the southern North Sea'.

Last year it completed a �3.5m refurbishment of its Norwich helicopter terminal, but it is facing stiff competition from other operators flying out of Norwich: Bond, NHV and Dancopter.

New European contracts include one starting this month using an EC225 helicopter and another last month with an S-92 helicopter and it said that high activity continued to be demonstrated by new awards for nine aircraft.

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Bristow was also recently shortlisted with Bond Aviation Group and CHC Helicopter Corp to compete for a �3.1bn government contract to provide search-and-rescue helicopter services.

William E Chiles, Bristow president and chief executive officer, said that the group was continuing to see strong operating performance and the European operation had contributed to its revenue growth.

'We are benefiting from the strength of the deep-water markets as our results for the June 2012 quarter were driven by higher activity in the North Sea, recovery in the US Gulf of Mexico, higher aircraft utilisation levels in Nigeria and lower costs primarily at the corporate level,' he added.