MAPO MIG's Moscow factory has closed for at least five months from 1 April because of a lack of orders. The closure comes at a time of rising controversy over the future of the group.

The shutdown of the plant was ordered by the general director of the VPK MAPO complex, Grigory Nemov. The plant has been working at a minimal capacity for at least a year. Workers will continue to be paid during the lay- off, and development work on the MiG-AT advanced trainer is expected to continue.

Russian business paper Kommersant Daily has alleged that there are ulterior motives for the shut down, suggesting that the plant is being closed in anticipation of the forthcoming privatisation of the Government's share in MAPO MIG. Closure would allow purchase of the operation at a cheaper price, alleges the newspaper.

One of the likely buyers is thought to be the MAPO bank, one of the founders of the MAPO MIG group, which includes the combat aircraft organisation and helicopter designer Kamov.

The tender for the share of MAPO MIG held by the state is likely to be a private affair contested by a few powerful banks.

Alexander Shilov, a financial advisor to the group who formerly tried to become general director of MAPO MIG, is thought to be behind moves by the MAPO bank to purchase the plant.

Source: Flight International