Toulouse-based aerostructures specialist Latecoere is making a major push to increase its composites presence by targeting a close partnership with Airbus’s Meaulte site and the creation of a new composites factory there.

A Latecoere spokesman says: “As part of Power8, we are going to respond to Airbus’ request for proposals concerning a partnership with the Meaulte site. The decision should be made during the summer.”

The facility in northern France which currently makes up a quarter of Airbus’s centre of excellence for nose and centre fuselage was identified as part of the manufacturer’s Power8 restructuring plan as a site suitable for an industrial partnership to aid the transition from metallic to composite design and manufacturing technology.
“We want to participate actively in the ongoing restructuring of the aeronautical landscape and become a leading European supplier in the structural composites sector,” says Latecoere chief executive Francois Bertrand.

The company aims to secure the long-term future of the Meaulte site, develop work on new projects and win international market share as part of the partnership. Latecoere says the deal would provide significant synergies.

The Meaulte site would provide expertise in composite structures and automated assembly. Latecoere would bring an “international dimension and renowned design bureau, the creation of a factory for composite fuselages at Meaulte and good international supply chain management”, Bertrand adds.
Latecoere – a famous name in French aviation that once built flying boats - says the tie-up would propel it into the realms of a “super tier 1” supplier with a turnover of more than e1 billion as well as making it a world leader in composite nose fuselage sections and a European leader in doors.

Airbus’ Power8 plan is designed to allow the manufacturer to deliver EBIT contributions of e2.1 billion ($2.8 bn) from 2010 onwards and additional e5bn of cumulative cash flow from 2007 to 2010.
The company formulated the plan after exchange rate fluctuations and delays to the A380 programme left it battling losses.
Meaulte, in northern France, is one of three plants including Filton in the UK and Nordenham in Germany, for which Airbus has said it will seek industrial partnerships to aid the transition from metallic to composite design and manufacturing technology.

Posted a loss
Last year Airbus posted a loss of e572m ($751m) in 2006, compared to a profit before interest and tax in 2005 of e2.3bn.
Investment by financial partners or a share offering could be “suitable solutions” to finance the projects. Latecoere posted 2006 revenues 22% higher than the previous year at e432.7m.

Source: Flight Daily News