Tim Ripley

BAe chief executive John Weston has made a strong pitch for Italy to join a pan-Europe missile company based on Matra BAe Dynamics.

Speaking at the Paris Airshow yesterday, Weston said that BAe and the Italian state owned aerospace company Alenia were conducting talks about possible link ups in the missile sector, as well as defence electronics, aero-structures and aircraft assembly.

Weston indicates that the link-up between Matra BAe Dynamics and the missile business of Alenia Marconi Systems was high on the agenda, but at the moment his company was keeping its options open for wider industry consolidation moves.

"Matra BAe Dynamics is the number two guided missile business in the world," says Weston. "It is the European focus in the missile business and it should be attractive to Italy."

The planned BAe merger with Marconi Electronic Systems would provide the opportunity to link up with the Italians, via the latter's stake in the Alenia Marconi Systems joint venture, says Weston.


"This will give Finmeccanica [the Italian state holding company] the opportunity to join Matra BAe Dynamics. It is a very attractive situation."

Industry sources suggest talks between Alenia and BAe over the future of the Marconi stake in the Alenia Marconi Systems defence electronics outfit are proving "difficult". Finmeccanica ultimately has the option of terminating the joint venture if terms cannot be agreed with BAe.

Weston makes it clear that there was still everything to play for in the consolidation stakes. "Nothing in life is certain and I don't like making public predictions about such things."

European consolidation was gathering pace, says Weston, but he stresses that moves to globalisation were his real aim.

"Our goal is to partner BAe in one of the two groups that come out from the globalising process.

"Our link-up with Marconi means we have an enormous lot of choices for these moves. There are a range of options open for us to take ourselves forward to be a global aerospace company."

Weston says after the link-up with Marconi, the new company would be the third largest aerospace group in the world, the number two in the defence business and the 6th largest in defence electronics in USA. Total annual turnover would be $12.5 billion.


Commenting on last Friday's takeover of Spain's Casa by Germany's DamlierChrysler Aerospace, the BAe chief welcomed the move.

"It is a step in the right direction to reform the Airbus Industrie partner-ship.

"Three people making decisions rather than four is a lot easier. We had talks with Casa, but it was never a must win issue for us."

Source: Flight Daily News