Italy's engine maker Avio is searching for a new chief executive following the death from a heart attack on 17 October of Orazio Ragni, aged just 49. Ragni had returned to Italy in December 2008 after an international career, and had taken the reins of a business which continues to perform strongly in terms of growth and profitability seven years after its divestment by automotive giant Fiat.

Avio is one of the Italian aerospace industry's oldest names and - Finmeccanica aside - its biggest employer with 5,200 staff: 90% of them at six production plants throughout Italy and the rest in Brazil, French Guyana, the Netherlands and Poland. Revenues have been growing steadily - by a half since the divestment - to 2009's €1.7 billion ($2.7 billion) and Avio claims its EBITDA profit margins of 18.3% in 2009 far outstripped those of its closest European rivals, MTU, Rolls-Royce, Safran and Volvo Aero.

The company, which began as an aircraft builder in the First World War, was majority owned by investment firm Carlyle Group between 2003 and 2006, with Finmeccanica holding 30%. Since then Cinven has stepped in as majority shareholder, with an 81% stake, while Finmeccanica has reduced its interest to 14%. Despite its efforts, the company has found it hard to shake the Fiat Avio brand, with constant media references refering to the company under its old name.

Like its competitors, Avio is involved in most aerospace sectors including civil airliners, military aircraft, helicopters and space launchers, as well as the naval market, and supplies or partners with other engine makers rather than developing entire engines. Its biggest customer is GE - it is on the GE90 as well as the GEnx for the Boeing 787 - but it also partners with Rolls-Royce on the Trent 900 and is part of the consortia powering the Airbus A400M and Eurofighter Typhoon.

Avio is one of the most significant aerospace employers in both Campania and Apulia, with 1,100 employed at a factory in Pomigliano D'Arco near Naples - the former Alfa Romeo Avio acquired in 1996 - making combustors, airfoils and other structural parts as well as handling civil maintenance, repair and overhaul. Its plant in Brindisi has a workforce of 625 and is engaged mainly in production and maintenance of military engines.

Source: Flight International