Julian Moxon/PARIS

France's biggest aerospace manufacturer, Aerospatiale, has posted a strong financial performance for the first half of the year, with an 11.5% increase in sales and 90% growth in pre-tax income over the same period in 1996.

The results come as the state-owned concern awaits the Government's decision, due before the end of September, on its plan for the restructuring of the French aerospace industry. While this concerns mainly the privatisation of defence-electronics manufacturer Thomson-CSF, its strategy will have a major impact on the future of Aerospatiale, its merger with Dassault Aviation and the French position on the transformation into a company of Airbus Industrie (in which Aerospatiale holds a 37.9% stake).

Operating income increased to Fr371 million ($61.8 million) from Fr1 million, while earnings at the end of June were as expected, increasing to Fr608 million from Fr273 million in 1996, excluding minority shares. This incorporated Fr168 million from the sale in February of Aerospatiale's stake in Space Systems Loral.

Although aircraft orders fell by 23%, there was a 33% rise in those booked for regional aircraft. According to Aerospatiale president Yves Michot, the balance should be redressed by "significant orders" for Airbus aircraft before the end of the year. Helicopter orders were up by 87%, while the space and defence business reported a 65% increase. Overall, sales growth stood at 8.5%.

Michot says that the year should produce "a significant rise in sales" over those of 1996, while orders will remain at the same level. He adds that the results "-reflect our successful strategy of balancing the product portfolio-If it is to achieve lasting competitiveness against the US aerospace industry, Europe's industry must consolidate."

Meanwhile, the French Government has appointed an "aeronautics consolidator", economics and finance minister Dominique Strass-Kahn, to provide a direct link with the three main Airbus partners on negotiations to transform the consortium into a company. A Government source says that the aim is to "-speed up" the process.

Source: Flight International