Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim
a former Malaysian army officer who is now a successful businessman, has big hopes for his Weststar Aviation Services and its offshore choppers, whose clients already include major oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell.
This Malaysian businessman is operating at maximum efficiency. His privately held Weststar Group, which includes a portfolio of interests in offshore helicopter services, car dealerships, and F&B establishments, is laying out a multi-pronged strategy to increase the fleet size of its helicopters, break into new markets, and increase sales of environmentally friendly vehicles.
The plan’s focal point is Weststar Aviation Services, which, according to India-based market research firm Imarc Group, is the second-largest offshore services operator in the Asia-Pacific area with 34 helicopters (it committed to purchase five more in May). Ibrahim, who founded and is the owner of the Weststar Group in Ampang, Malaysia, has high ambitions. We intend to operate more helicopters than anyone else in the world in ten years, he claims.
The oil and gas industry uses Weststar’s helicopters to carry executives, staff and supplies as well as for pipe and power-line inspections, timber surveys and medical evacuation, frequently in regions that are inaccessible or challenging to reach by other modes of transportation. With sites across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, it serves clients including Shell and ExxonMobil as well as Malaysia’s Petronas, a state-owned oil corporation. For VIP transportation, a different division called Weststar General Aviation possesses two aircraft and a helicopter.
After purchasing a 21% interest back from private equity behemoth KKR in March, Ibrahim, 63, now owns 100% of Weststar Aviation Services. According to Ibrahim, the acquisition valued the company at 4 billion ringgit ($890 million). The businessman, ranked No. 24 on the list of Malaysia’s 50 Richest, is chairman of Weststar Aviation Services and group managing director of Weststar Group, with an estimated net worth of $825 million.
According to a survey by Dublin-based Research & Markets, the market for offshore helicopter services would grow to $3.1 billion by 2028 from $2.5 billion in 2022. Ibrahim’s strategy calls for spending $250 million over the following two years to expand the number of helicopters he owns and leases by about 30%. His inventory of helicopters, largely in the medium range, includes models from Leonardo and the European aerospace giant Airbus.
In order to increase its footprint in the oil and gas sector in Europe and Africa, the firm formed a strategic alliance in March with Helicopter & Cooperation SAS, a joint venture between French Avico Group and Namibia-based Westair Aviation. According to Ibrahim, the corporation is particularly interested in Indonesia, Guyana, and Suriname on the north coast of South America, as well as Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, and Mauritania in Africa.
Weststar Aviation Services is also expanding into the government helicopter charter business. The Royal Malaysian Air Force received four helicopters on lease from it last year. It states that three more will be contracted to the Malaysian government, and four more will be delivered by early 2024.
Similar to this, IBrahim has big hopes for his vehicle enterprises, which he claims generate 315 million ringgit in annual income. With Weststar Maxus, he is the sole distributor of China’s Maxus vehicles in Malaysia. Ibrahim intends to increase the number of Maxus dealerships to increase the availability of the company’s electric and hybrid vehicles, which he predicts will make up 20% of Maxus sales this year. His Weststar Auto is a Honda dealer in Japan, while his Weststar Motors is an importer of high-end vehicles.
On the food and beverage front, Syed Muhammad Arif, Ibrahim’s oldest son, currently oversees nine Wolf & Turtle coffee shops in Malaysia and has ambitious growth ambitions for the chain by 2025 (three of Ibrahim’s seven children and one son-in-law work for him). Ibrahim and a partner also run upmarket Thai eateries under the Absolute Thai brand in shopping centres. For most of his businesses, he declined to disclose financial information.
Malaysian businessman joined the corporate world in 1994 after spending 13 years as an officer in the Malaysian Armed Forces’ Royal Intelligence Corps. He made a 200,000 ringgit investment to begin importing used luxury vehicles from Europe to Malaysia for resale. He started working as a distributor for Honda in 2002, and Maxus joined him in 2011.