Flybe steps in as Finnair reduces MRO presence

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UK regional carrier Flybe has become the majority shareholder of Finnair's ATR turboprop support subsidiary, Finnish Aircraft Maintenance (FAM). The announcement follows a court injunction cutting short this week's strike at Finnair Technical Services, the mainline's engineering division.

Flybe already owned 46.3% of FAM having acquired the stake from former shareholder Finncomm in July 2011. But the UK airline has now bought an additional 6.3% stake from Finnair as well as acquiring 7.4% previously held by minority shareholders, bringing its total ownership to 60%.

Finnair holds the remaining 40% under an ownership structure which reflects the same ratio as at Flybe Nordic, the regional airline venture jointly set up by the two companies.

Flybe says it paid £295,000 ($455,000) for the additional 13.7% shareholding. This would represent around £1,055,000 in gross assets, according to FAM's total £7.7 million evaluation at the end of 2010, the airline adds.

Helsinki-based FAM specialises in ATR turboprop maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), and primarily supports FlybeNordic aircraft. Flybe says that the re-organisation should not have a "significant impact on reported profits" for the financial year to 31 March 2013.

Meanwhile, the strike by Finnair maintenance personnel earlier this week was cut short after a court injunction, prompting the Pro trade union to warn that its members could walk out again on other grounds.

Around 1,000 Finnair Technical Services staff members went on strike on 5 June, opposing the airline's plans to close its engine and component repair shops and outsource the work to Zurich-based maintenance provider SR Technics. The industrial action was planned to last for a week.

On 6 June, however, the Helsinki district court implemented a court injunction against the strike. All employees have returned to their workplaces after most of them had turned up yesterday, and there are no more disruptions at the parent airline today, according to Finnair.

Antti Rinne, president of the private sector trade union Pro, tells Flightglobal that the association is negotiating with Finnair about compensation levels for the employees, who will be made redundant by the airline's decision to withdraw from engine and component MRO.

Finnair already decided last year to close down its airframe maintenance business, saying it wanted to focus on in-house line maintenance operations.

Rinne says that the union hopes further industrial action will not be necessary, but he adds that workers could strike again on other grounds in spite of the court injunction.

Finnair stated earlier this week that it is negotiating with a potential buyer for "part of its engine operations" in a move that would secure a number of jobs at the division.