SAMSUNG'S PROPOSED rescue of Fokker has been put on hold until the South Korean Government and other other local aerospace manufacturers decide whether or not they should back the programme.

The deal ran into a last-minute delay when Samsung sought South Korean Government approval and financial support for its take-over of the bankrupt Dutch company. Samsung and Netherlands Government receivers had been ready to sign a detailed memorandum of understanding.

Seoul, in response, has appointed a 15-man commission, consisting of university, state-funded institute and industry representatives, to judge the feasibility of the Fokker purchase. Its findings will be presented to a Government review board, headed by the South Korean prime minister, for a decision in December.

The Government, at the same time, is making it clear that any national funding for Fokker is contingent on South Korean participation being widened to include other aerospace manufacturers. As a result, Samsung has reluctantly extended invitations to its former Korean Commercial-Aircraft Development Aircraft consortium partners, Daewoo, Hyundai and Korean Air, to join.

Each has been asked to respond by 15 November. They appear to be less than enthusiastic about the deal, however, with one senior aerospace executive complaining that Samsung has so far failed to provide sufficient information to make a decision.

He describes Samsung's 15-page proposal as "rather more brief than usual presentation material and unsatisfactory". More details, in particular, are needed to assess the risk and level of exposure over the next four to five years.

What is known is that Samsung has agreed to keep open Fokker's production line in the Netherlands and maintain a 1,100-strong workforce until 2003, but does not expect the restructured operation to break even until the year 2000. Its plan calls for production to be set initially at 20 aircraft a year, increasing to an annual rate of between 42 and 46 units.

Aside from the $150 million purchase price agreed by Samsung, $250 million more is needed to recapitalise the loss-making company. Final development of the follow-on Fokker 130 is projected to cost a further $800-900 million, of which the Dutch Government has agreed to provide $255 million. Establishing a leasing company will require another $500 million, says a senior South Korean official.

Co-operation with Samsung is further complicated by the participation of two of the companies in programmes which conflict with the existing Fokker 70/100 product line and planned new 125- to 130-seat development.

Hyundai and Korean Air have already teamed with McDonnell Douglas (MDC) to build the 100-seat MD-95-30.

Hyundai is keen to extend its supply of wings to include the proposed 125-seat stretched MD-95-50, and has already initiated discussions with MDC.

At the same time, Korean Air, which will supply the MD-95's nose, is also being actively courted to join Aero International (Regional)'s planned new 70-seat-aircraft programme.

Source: Flight International