Negotiations between the administrator of Italy’s Piaggio Aerospace and a potential buyer for the troubled airframer have been given the go-ahead by the country’s economic development ministry.

Piaggio has been in extraordinary administration – a form of business rescue – since 2018, with Vincenzo Nicastro appointed by the state as a commissioner to oversee its restructuring and sale.

P180-c-Johannes Kraak_Shutterstock

Source: Johannes Kraak/Shutterstock

Piaggio is to update P.180s operated by Italian military

In March, Nicastro disclosed that he had received four offers for the company; that has now been whittled down to one contender which is seeking to acquire both of the group’s businesses, Piaggio Aero Industries and Piaggio Aviation.

Piaggio says the preferred bidder was “deemed most suitable” due to the “quality of the industrial plan and long-term vision, jobs preservation and value of the offer”. However, it declines to reveal the identity of the potential buyer.

Negotiations are expected to last around one month and should culminate in an “irrevocable and binding offer” by the “end of the summer”, it says.

Several government approvals will be required for the deal to proceed – including from the authorities governing anti-trust legislation and the sale of Italy’s strategic assets – plus the agreement of workforce unions.

Although Nicastro had hoped to conclude the sale talks by April, disruption caused by the pandemic have delayed the process. However, Piaggio plays down the effects of the delay, noting that the company has remained operational and has “added new orders to its portfolio” during the period.

Piaggio has commitments for 14 new P.180 Avanti Evos, plus contracts related to the modernisation of 19 examples of the twin-pusher turboprop operated by the Italian armed forces.

Of those 14 new-build examples, nine are destined for the Italian air force: five in a transport and ambulance configuration, and four for special missions. These will be built to the P.180 Evo Plus standard, specifically designed for governmental customers, says the company.

That variant is now entering the critical design review (CDR) phase, which is expected to conclude by the end of the summer. First flight of the new model is anticipated in early 2022, with certification following later that year.

Meanwhile, the 19 aircraft already in use by Rome will be raised to the new P.180 Avanti II Plus standard, gaining new landing gear and brakes, plus enhancements to their communications systems. The CDR was passed earlier this year and test flights with an initial conforming example should lead to civil certification in the coming months; military approval should follow in the autumn.

Piaggio’s financial troubles were triggered by the decision of former owner, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala, to pull out of the business.

Based in Villanova D’Albenga near Genoa, Piaggio has a successful maintenance, repair and overhaul business and builds engine components, but it remains a single product company, and the Avanti, though updated twice, is a 1980s-designed platform.

Since it went into administration, a package of orders and commitments from the Italian government worth $980 million has provided a lifeline.