Alenia Spazio is considering rivals bids from Matra Marconi Space and the new French grouping of Alcatel/Aerospatiale and Thomson to form an alliance. The Italian space company is expected to decide and complete the deal by the end of the year.

With the French grouping in place and Matra-Marconi completing talks to merge with Daimler-Benz Aerospace's space activities, Alenia Spazio is the last great prize in the consolidation of Europe's space industry. Negotiations on the alliance proposals have been under way for months, and at one time it looked as though a decision could come from the Italians as early as this month, although in the event this target proved too ambitious.

While the talks continue over such things as meeting Italian demands to retain core capabilities moves are under way to create Alenia Spazio as a standalone company. The process will see it separated from its current position as part of state-owned Finmeccanica's Alenia Aerospazio group into a standalone company - a minority shareholding in the new concern will go to the winning alliance. Alenia sources say a full merger is not ruled out in the long term.

The Italian company is one of the strongest in Europe, with an orderbook at the end of last year standing at around L2,500billion ($1.5 billion), and substantial, although undisclosed, profits.

Source: Flight International