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Embraer boss: Design and comfort a 'game-changer' in executive jets

By CNN wire staff
June 11, 2013 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Embraer, founded over 40 years ago, is also looking to make inroads into the U.S. defense market
  • Frederico Curado, head of Embraer, told CNN the company had combined "the best of both worlds"
  • U.S. Air Force announced it had selected Embraer Defense for a contract for 20 aircraft worth $427 million

(CNN) -- Executive jets are a glamorous concept; throw in comfort, performance and robust design and it becomes a business with sex appeal, according to the boss of a Brazilian aerospace giant.

Frederico Curado, head of Embraer, told CNN the company had combined "the best of both worlds" to create a very "sex appealing" line in executive jets.

Embraer's push into the market 13 years ago took the competition by surprise, but it became a "game changer," due to its focus on design, comfort and power, Curado said.

The company's first model was the Legacy 600 and it now plans to release two more in as many years, with the market stable after the financial crisis exploded five years ago, according to Curado.

Brazil, unfortunately, is not an obvious destination for high-tech companies
Frederico Curado, head of Embraer

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Embraer is gaining traction in the sector, he said. "We are around 15% of market share in terms of number of aircrafts from 12 years ago, so this is a growing business for us," he added. "In a certain sense [it is] outgrowing the commercial business."

Embraer, founded over 40 years ago, is also looking to make inroads into the U.S. defense market. In February the U.S. Air Force announced it had selected Embraer Defense for its LAS (Light Air Support) program, a contract for 20 aircraft worth $427 million.

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The company also supplies 50% of the aircraft for the Brazilian Airforce, and Curado remains committed to that country. "Definitely Brazil is our largest defense customer, always has been, always will be," he said.

More to Brazilian economy than sports

Embraer is headquartered in Sao Jose dos Campos, in the state of Sao Paolo, and is seen as a jewel in the crown of Brazilian industry.

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But, following a decline in exports of manufactured goods over the past decade, competitiveness has been eroded by a strong currency.

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According to Curado, high-costs and bureaucracy makes it difficult to do business in Brazil, despite its "tremendous potential."

He added: "Brazil, unfortunately, is not an obvious destination for high-tech companies to invest in, to build for example a global platform for exports... A lot is driven by the Brazilian domestic market."

Brazil -- the world's sixth largest economy -- is considered one of the emerging market superpowers of the next decade and is part of former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill's famous 2001 acronym, BRIC, referring to Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Despite this billing, the country has struggled with relatively low growth for the last two years, recording only a 0.6% increase in 2012.

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Curado said: "I hope Brazil achieves continuous growth with social insertion. We have been able to move tens of millions of people up in society from misery to poverty, from poverty to middle class and this is fundamental. Growth without inclusion doesn't go anywhere."

The CEO is also hopeful the soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 will go some way to improving living conditions in Brazil, leading to infrastructure investment in roads, public transport and airports.

CNN's Oliver Joy contributed to this report

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