Julian Moxon/PARIS

A merger between ATR and Embraer is one likely outcome of the purchase of a 20% stake in the Brazilian airframer by a group of French aerospace companies. The military sales prospects of Dassault Aviation in South America are also likely to be boosted by the move, which saw the French group head off a rival bid from British Aerospace/Saab.

In a deal worth around $200 million, Aerospatiale Matra, Thomson-CSF and Dassault will each take a 5.67% share of voting stock in Embraer, the world's fourth largest airliner manufacturer, with 2.9% going to Snecma. Around 75% of the shares will be purchased through a public tender offer in Brazil and the rest through a private agreement with Embraer's three main shareholders.

Aerospatiale Matra managing director, aeronautics, Jean Francois Bigay, says formal contractual negotiations will begin immediately on a regional aircraft deal "which may go as far as a merger". He adds that the consent of ATR partner Alenia would be required, but given the weak position of regional turboprop manufacturer ATR and the clear synergies with Embraer's burgeoning regional jet business, this is unlikely to present insuperable difficulties.


The military implications of the deal are likely to be most important. Brazil needs up to 150 new fighter aircraft to replace Dassault Mirage IIIs and Northrop F-5s, and there is little doubt that Dassault Aviation is a front runner, with talks having been held on a possible final assembly line for the Mirage 2000 (above) or Rafale. Nine of the 13 South American air forces already operate Mirages.

Dassault is also looking for a way of re-entering the advanced jet trainer market and is understood to be talking to Embraer about a potential share in a modernised version of the AMX, originally developed by Alenia and Embraer as a strike aircraft.

Embraer president Carlos Leoni Siqueira stresses that the deal was signed "with no particular programme in mind" and that Brazil has "made absolutely no commitment" to any potential bidder for contracts, adding that the French partnership "will not have any control over Embraer".

Snecma, which has little activity in the region, hopes to grow its engine maintenance and equipment businesses. The group already supplies Embraer via its Messier Bugatti, Messier Dowty and Hispano Suiza divisions.

Source: Flight International