US private investment company Carlyle Group has tabled an offer to the Fiat Group for FiatAvio, the turbine engine division of the financially struggling automotive-focused Italian company. The Carlyle bid is reported to be worth €1.6 billion ($1.7 billion), in line with Fiat's own valuation of €1.5-2 billion.

In 2002 FiatAvio reported €1.6 billion sales and an operating profit of €186 million. Carlyle owns large stakes in United Defense Industries and Vought Aircraft Industries and the company recently took a stake in UK research company Qinetiq (Flight International, 10-17 December 2002).

Carlyle's offer precedes an expected joint bid from Snecma and Finmeccanica. Sources say Finmeccanica is reluctant to join the bid and will make a final decision by mid-March. Snecma's position would be strengthened if it could secure an Italian partner.

The Italian government wants assurance of a continued Italian presence in FiatAvio, the main supplier of aircraft engine products and services to the Italian air force and of LM500/2500 series marine turbine engines to the navy.

Rome has previously expressed concerns about the possibility of a foreign company taking over FiatAvio, and says that it would prefer any bid to be at least partially Italian.

Finmeccanica and Snecma would take 50% of FiatAvio each, according to Italian press reports, but management of FiatAvio activities would be divided between them. Snecma would appoint the managers of the civil aeroengine division, while Finmeccanica would manage the defence-related activities, including the helicopter gearbox division.

Source: Flight International