Chris Jasper/LONDON

Europe's new missile house, to be known as MBDA, will be launched in the next few weeks. The partners, - BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica - are close to agreement on the creation of a company to be formed from the bulk of Matra BAe Dynamics (MBD) and the missile business of defence electronics specialist Alenia Marconi Systems (AMS). The latter will itself be merged with BAE's Land and Sea Systems division.


Key to the twin moves is a payment to be made by Finmeccanica in order to retain a significant stake in the businesses - a fee the Italian company's senior vice-president strategic finance, Alberto de Benedictis, tells Flight International will total "less than €600 million [$515million]".

Benedictis says the agreement, establishing the new company and detailing its operations and organisation, is close to being finalised, after which board, legal and shareholder approvals will be sought. The deal will be closed "early-to-mid November".

EADS co-chief executive (CEO), Philippe Camus, has confirmed that the missile house will be known as MBDA - the suffix "A" representing Alenia - although sources say an argument was presented in favour of "Meteor", after the current MBD's beyond visual range air-to-air missile.

MBDA will have a management team headed by a CEO, two deputy CEOs and a chief financial officer, drawn from the UK, France and Italy. Benedictis says that, "in terms of overall missile technology", it will have "nothing less" than US rival Raytheon. MBDA will be 37.5%-owned by BAE and EADS, with Finmeccanica controlling 25%. AMS, which could keep its name, will remain a 50:50 venture between EADS and Finmeccanica.

The Italian company, seeking joint ventures for all its aerospace and defence activities, is involved in negotiations on many fronts. The European Military Aircraft venture with EADS, which will receive the whole of Alenia Aeronautica, will not now be sealed until next March, EADS co-CEO Rainer Hertrich has revealed. Finmeccanica last week completed the merger of its avionics activities as a prelude to seeking a partner.

Benedictis, meanwhile, confirms that the Agusta Westland helicopter venture with GKN is keen to find a US partner, and that a deal with Eurocopter is less of a priority. "There is more overlap with Europe than in the USA," he says. Benedictis says Finmeccanica must decide whether to join the A3XX project before the "supplier configuration" is frozen. It may not take the full 10% workshare offered.

Alenia's Underwater Systems unit has a torpedoes joint venture, and plans to formalise this, and an electronic warfare venture - Elettronica - with Thomson-CSF. Finmeccanica is running down its non-core power generation and transport divisions.

Source: Flight International