FOKKER CHAIRMAN Ben van Schaik says that the company has spoken to some 30 parties potentially interested in taking over all or part of its operations, but is focusing initial negotiations on the "...six or seven" which may want to take on the entire company.

He says that Fokker and its administrators must make significant progress by the first week in March to ensure the Netherlands manufacturer's survival, but adds: "We are talking to very professional prospective 'partners' who are well aware of the time pressure."

Aerospatiale, Bombardier and British Aerospace are among the of companies which have been contacted by the receivers. Companies such as India's Hindustan Aeronautics confirm that they have received data on the sale. Many are only interested in taking over parts of the business, such as managing the leasing operation now run by debis, and taking over the product support.

Van Schaik blames the problems besetting Fokker on four major factors: a 50% decline in aircraft demand, leading to expensive overcapacity; a 30% decrease in achievable aircraft prices arising from low demand and high supply; a 25% drop in the value of the US dollar compared to the Netherlands guilder; and high finance charges arising from previous re-organisations of the company.

He says that, had the company been recapitalised as planned in a Dfl2.3 billion ($1.4 billion) reconstruction, it would now be trading profitably. Instead, it has been left with huge debts, which "...have put us in the situation of making enormous interest payments".

Van Schaik will not be drawn on the identities of the prospective partners, nor will he discuss the substance of any of the approaches. He does say that a pre-requisite of the negotiations at this initial stage is to try to preserve an aerospace industry in the Netherlands.

He confirms that profitable parts of the Fokker empire, such as Fokker Aircraft Services, Fokker Special Products and Fokker Space (which was separated from the parent some six weeks ago) are not affected by the administration of Fokker Aircraft, and continue to trade profitably.

He says that no customers for the current product line have cancelled any orders so far, and that all the company's suppliers - including risk-sharing partners on the Fokker 70/100 programme Daimler-Benz Aerospace and Shorts - have agreed to continue to provide components.

The line of credit extended by the Netherlands Government is enabling Fokker to pay for current supplies in cash, while being protected from repaying existing debt.

Fred Briedenbach, president of Gulfstream Aerospace , which uses a Fokker-built empennage on its new Gulfstream V long-range business jet, says that he has been assured "by the right people in the Netherlands" that the aerostructures part of Fokker will be separated from the rump of the aircraft-assembly activities into a separate company if there is any danger of Fokker going into liquidation.


Source: Flight International