For sale – Airbus

Quite a competition is under way in Europe, as EADS tries to sell off all or part of six Airbus plants as part of its Power8 restructuring plan, including Filton in the UK, Meaulte in France and Nordenham in Germany.

Reuters has published a list of 14 companies it says have submitted bids for the plants.

The list includes some familiar names in the aerostructures business: the UK’s GKN , France’s Latecoere, Sweden’s Saab, the USA’s Spirit and the Netherlands’ Stork. But there are also some less familiar names.

Reuters says stakes of up to 100% are being offered in the Filton, Meaulte and Nordenham plants, tied to risk-sharing on development the A350, with exclusive negotiations to begin by the end of July with one partner for each plant.

GKN Aerospace’s presence on the list is no surprise. The UK firm bought Boeing’s St Louis fabrication operations in 2000, and has stakes in both the A380 and 787. But it dropped out of the bidding for Boeing’s Wichita division, which was ultimately purchased in 2005 by Canadian investment firm Onex and renamed Spirit Aerosystems. Spirit then turned around and bought BAE Systems’ aerostructures unit.

Saab Aerostructures is a risk-sharing partner on the A380 and a cargo-door supplier on the 787, and in 2006 formed a new aerostructures venture with South Africa’s Denel. Latecoere supplies fuselage sections and wiring harnesses to Airbus, as well as doors for the 787. Stork Aerospace is a major risk sharer on the A380, largely thanks to use of its Glare aluminium/composite hybrid in the fuselage.

Some of the others on Reuters’ list are less well-known, in aerospace at least, so here is a primer:

Diehl (Germany) – a multi-industry company in metals, ammunition, avionics and missiles.

EDAG Engineering + Design (Germany) – an independent engineering firm.

MaxCor (USA) – a New York industrial investment firm.

MT Aerospace (Germany) – an aerospace components manufacturer with plants in Germany and the UK.

Recaro Aircraft Seating (Germany) – an aircraft seat manufacturer, as its name suggests, but also in composites production through its South African subsidiary.

Schaeffer (France) – a machining specialist based in Forbach.

Segula Technologies (France) – a Paris-based consulting and staffing company.

Voith (Germany) – a paper-to-power multi-industry holding company.

Zodiac (France) – an acquisitive and diversified aircraft systems manufacturer with companies in the UK, USA and Germany as well as France.

An interesting question is what the winning bidders will do with the plants. Both GKN and Spirit had to commit to aggressive cost-reduction targets when they bought the Boeing operations, and Spirit’s strategy is to diversify by winning Airbus business. Could we see a day when Filton designs and builds wings for Boeing?

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2 Responses to For sale – Airbus

  1. John Aislabie 16 July, 2007 at 1:04 pm #

    It is to be hoped that aerospace construction will be part of whatever is in Filton’s future, since I believe that it has a reasonable claim to be the oldest continuous aerospace factory.
    Shorts was older, but moved out of Kent. Avro too was older, but moved to Woodford in the 1920′s. Handley Page of course collapsed, and had in any case moved to its post-WW1 base at Radlett.
    So it is Filton and its Bristol Aircraft heritage that racks up 100 years on the same site in 1910. Are there any contenders?

  2. The Woracle 16 July, 2007 at 1:53 pm #

    Reports out of Paris say GKN and Spirit are the lead contenders to invest in Filton. Makes sense, GKN being British and Spirit already owning the former BAE aerostructures business.

    I could share my thoughts on the post-war mismanagement of the British aircraft industry, but will refrain…

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