US manufacturer applies for membership of SBAC as it bids to reinvent itself as integral player in British industry

Boeing is looking to make its first acquisition in the UK. Country president Sir Michael Jenkins says that, despite the US company's shift from vertical integration, he has been tasked to look for takeover targets in Boeing's biggest supplier base.

"I would be surprised if at some point we did not make an acquisition, but I cannot put a timescale on that," says Jenkins, who joined Boeing a year ago. "I have a mergers and acquisitions watching brief. Some situations are very interesting. I talk regularly to analysts and corporate financiers to make sure we are not missing a trick."

He says Boeing chief executive Harry Stonecipher rules out simple manufacturing businesses. "Harry does not want to buy boxes - suppliers that can do it better outside the group. We are moving away from doing these sorts of things ourselves. We are looking for technologies that can be distributed globally throughout Boeing," he says.

Jenkins, a former career diplomat and merchant banker, says one of his roles is to change Boeing's perception among UK opinion-formers from that of a foreign manufacturer selling equipment to airlines and the Ministry of Defence to an integral player in the UK aerospace industry. Boeing claims to support 30,000 jobs with more than 200 suppliers in the UK and to be a net exporter, spending twice as much with UK industry as it sells to UK customers. The fact that Boeing's rival Airbus is one of the UK's biggest aerospace employers wins it a great deal of political support and Boeing is keen to redress the balance.

As part of this effort, Boeing has applied to become a member of the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) for the first time and has become involved in initiatives such as government and industry working group the Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team.

Boeing has formed UK joint ventures in the past, including its partnership with AgustaWestland in Yeovil to manufacture Apache attack helicopters for the British Army. However, despite a headcount of 500 staff in the UK - mostly in sales and seconded to suppliers' sites - it has no direct manufacturing interests.

Sheffield University will open a new site for its Boeing-sponsored Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre on 22 July. Boeing, which began its relationship with the university three years ago, is committing $3.5 million over 10 years to the joint venture. The US company also funds projects with Cambridge and Cranfield universities.

Next week's Flight International includes a 20-page special on the UK industry. Our 13 July Farnborough special includes a two-page interview with Harry Stonecipher.



Source: Flight International