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AgustaWestland plays down Yeovil mass job cut fears

Fears of mass job cuts at AgustaWestland's Yeovil, UK factory in the wake of the Indian government's decision to cancel its order for 12 VVIP AW101s have been played down by the company.

The threat of redundancies was sparked by a statement issued on 2 January by the airframer's parent company, Finmeccanica. It warned that if the deal with New Delhi cannot be salvaged it has a developed a "mitigation plan" that includes "a reduction to the workforce".

Although AW101s are assembled at Yeovil, AgustaWestland says any potential job losses would be spread across all its European manufacturing sites. The company declines to be drawn on the number of positions possibly affected, but stresses cuts would be relatively minimal.

Yeovil "in the coming months" will also begin assembly of the first AW189s at the site, with initial examples of the 8t rotorcraft destined for Bristow Helicopters as part of its search and rescue contract with the UK government. The facility is also undergoing refurbishment work to its blade shop, to enable the site to produce rotor blades for both the AW189 and the lighter AW169.

A further boost for the plant is likely to come from the UK Ministry of Defence in the coming weeks, when it confirms the award of a £330 million ($542 million) contract to upgrade 25 Royal Air Force AW101 Merlin HC3/3As for use by the Royal Navy.

Finmeccanica says the plan also incorporates the "reallocation of existing working capital" – thought to refer to the possible sale of the aircraft to other customers. In November 2013 Alessandro Pansa, Finmeccanica chief executive, said that three of the AW101s destined for India had already found a buyer.

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