In July 2005 France's Alcatel and Italy's Finmeccanica formed the two joint ventures of Alcatel Alenia Space for manufacturing and Telespazio for services.

That lasted for 21 months, until a mutual interest in communications network infrastructure brought Alcatel and Lucent together in 2006 to create the Franco-US company Alcatel-Lucent.

That merger led to an agreement with Thales in December 2006 - approved by the European Commission in April - that involved Alcatel-Lucent doubling its share in Thales to 20% while transferring its satellite manufacturing businesses to the new Franco-Italian joint venture Thales Alenia Space.

Thales today is 27% owned by the French government, 20% by Alcatel-Lucent and the remainder by shareholders.

This interchange of shares, cash and plant was largely invisible for the space alliance's employees as there was no immediate organisational change and it has made no visible difference on the ground.

Source: Flight International