Proposed deal includes all commercial manufacturing operations at the site, but not defence work or shared services
Boeing has appointed investment company Goldman Sachs to help find potential buyers for its commercial aircraft manufacturing, modification and support operations in Wichita, Kansas and at its Tulsa and McAlester sites in Oklahoma.
Although officially termed a "study" by the company, the planned sale covers all the current commercial manufacturing operations in Wichita where the fuselage of the 737 family is made, as well as major parts and subassemblies for all Boeing commercial models. The site, which employs around 10,000 people in commercial products and services, is also earmarked for assembly work on the planned 7E7. Boeing commercial work at the two Oklahoma sites employs a combined total of around 1,000.
The proposed sale does not include Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems operations in Wichita, or enterprise-wide services provided by the company's Shared Services Group. The Wichita-based defence work, employing around 2,000, includes military-derivative maintenance and modification of several types including the KC-135, E-4B and VC-25A fleets and 767 tanker/transports for Italy and Japan.
Boeing says the move is part of its continuing strategic goal of becoming an "assembler of large- scale structures and focusing less on the fabrication of parts. Wichita falls somewhere in the middle of that, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a parts maker. "It adds: "We have reached the point in this analysis where we think we need to see if there is a market for this kind of operation."
The company, which says no end date has yet been set on the study, adds that the division could be sold or "we could end up doing nothing". An internal memo to employees says the study will be under way for "a number of months. Despite what you may read or hear, there has been no decision to sell anything. The research now under way will clarify some of the alternatives available to us." It continues: "The Wichita/Tulsa division will remain a critical supplier to Boeing under any of the scenarios under study, and the high-value 7E7 work we've been chosen for demonstrates our ability to compete successfully."
Potential buyers are believed to include Texas-based Vought Aircraft and GKN Aerospace, both of which have indicated interest in new acquisitions. GKN bought Boeing's Hazelwood, Missouri site near St.Louis in 2001 but, like Vought, is not commenting on any potential bids for these much larger slices of the empire.
GUY NORRIS / LOS ANGELES
Source: Flight International