Thales has big growth plans for Singapore

French technology firm Thales - which counts Changi Airport, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Singapore Armed Forces among its key clients in Singapore - has big growth plans here.

Staff strength will grow almost 70 per cent to about 1,000 in five years, said group president Patrice Caine.

Apart from growing its existing businesses here, Thales is also venturing into satellite technology and cyber security, he told The Straits Times at the Singapore Airshow.

"We will continue to expand our current tie-ups in Singapore. For example, in ground transportation, there are many future projects beyond the ones we are currently executing for LTA and SMRT," he said.

Thales, which designs and builds electrical systems, is upgrading the signalling system for the North-South and East-West MRT lines. Changi Airport's air traffic management system is also a Thales product.

On new growth areas, Mr Caine said cyber security is becoming an increasing focus for many existing and potential customers.

Operators are working with critical systems such as air traffic systems and rail signalling services that ensure safety for millions, even billions, of users every day.

"As long as you have software, it raises the issue of resilience to cyber attacks. More and more, firms are worried about cyber threats... The protection of critical systems is an important focus for us," Mr Caine said. "We have many customers globally, and some have started serious discussions with us on this topic."

He would not be drawn into commenting on whether Thales is talking to Changi Airport, LTA or other clients here about cyber security.

At a civil aviation cyber security conference last year, the Transport Ministry's permanent secretary, Mr Pang Kin Keong, cited an annual survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers that reported the total number of detected security incidents had climbed from 29 million in 2013 to 43 million last year - an increase of almost 50 per cent.

"That amounts to more than 100,000 attacks per day, every day," Mr Pang pointed out then, stressing that the civil aviation community must step up to the plate to address the cyber threat.

Thales is set to support this drive, said Mr Caine. "We expect the team here in Singapore not just to serve customers here but to tackle other markets in the region as well... This is going to be a major growth area."

Karamjit Kaur

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2016, with the headline 'Thales has big growth plans for Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe