Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) and Finmeccanica/Alenia have finally sealed their long-standing talks over a greater German-Italian aerospace partnership, by agreeing to study co-operation across "all fields of civil and military interest".
The move comes as DASA, which posted a loss of DM1.6 billion ($1 billion) for the first half of the year (Flight International, 20-26 September), looks for ways of reducing costs and of avoiding the crippling effect of the low value of the US dollar.
This could now include, shifting work to Italy, where it would benefit from lower labour costs and a weak lire. "DASA is examining opportunities to transfer production activities into other countries, and Alenia has stated that it is in a position to perform them at competitive costs in its plants," says the German group.
A working party has been formed to "evaluate business activities of mutual interest", and is due to report back on areas of possible areas of co-operation by the end of the year. This could involve fresh alliances, and possibly lay the foundations for "...the formation of a major European industrial axis", says DASA.
Alenia already co-operates with DASA on several military programmes such as the Tornado and the Eurofighter, and is campaigning for final assembly of the Future Large Aircraft (FLA), on the basis of Italy's experience with G.222 transport production.
As a partner within ATR (and now the AIR consortium with British Aerospace), Alenia also provides a potentially important ally for DASA in its attempts to lead a European regional-aircraft consortium.
It could also further Italy's longer-term ambitions to find a role within the Airbus consortium, which it forsook in favour of US partnerships. Until earlier this year, Alenia was still in discussions over cementing its commercial co-operation with McDonnell Douglas by taking out an equity stake in the business. That plan was apparently dropped because of a change of heart from the US side.
In the meantime, Alenia already has links into Airbus through components work on the A321, and could expect to gain more from a deal with DASA. The group, for example, is understood to be looking to move its A300/310 freighter conversion work out of Germany.
Alenia is due to receive at least some commercial-aircraft work from the DASA group under the offset arrangements surrounding Alitalia's decision to acquire 15 Fokker 70-100s. Alenia's parent Finmeccanica group had been asking for 200,000 man-hours from DASA over the next five years, with engine-supplier Rolls Royce providing another 15,000. Alitalia has now signed the contract and the first aircraft, on ten-year lease, will start to arrive in November.
A final strand of co-operation centres on the space and missiles sector, where Italy could hope to join DASA and Aerospatiale in attempts to create a powerful European consortium.
Source: Flight International