Aerospatiale president Yves Michot has defended the company in the face of growing criticism by its European partners that its state-owned status is holding up the region's industry consolidation process.

"We have achieved a huge internal restructuring programme, which opens opportunities everywhere," he says. While there is still no hint of any reduction in the French Government's stake in the company, he points to the recent creation of aircraft and space/ defence subsidiaries as moves which "show we are able to act autonomously".

Michot's remarks were made as the aerospace and defence group revealed a 75% increase in profits and a record backlog, worth Fr160 billion ($26.6 billion). He says that the results show that Aerospatiale is in a "favourable position" to be at the heart of an integrated European civil and military aerospace industry.

Profits for 1997 jumped to Fr1.41 billion, with improvements in all sectors, including helicopters, which moved into the black. Following losses in 1996, the regional aircraft business almost broke even, which is ahead of expectations.

Sales for the year reached Fr53.6 billion, a rise of 11%. Most of the increase was a result of improved business at Airbus.

Source: Flight International