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General Electric to buy Czech engine maker Walter

General Electric is to purchase the assets of Czech manufacturer Walter Engines, which produces the M601 turboprop powering the Let L-410 19-seat commuter aircraft.

The deal will give GE Aviation a product in the small turboprop market below its 1,800shp-class CT7. The 750shp-class M601 is a competitor to the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6, and is used on some 30 different aircraft types.

About 85% of Walter engines are operated outside the USA and Western Europe. "They are very prevalent in emerging markets - India, China, Russia, Brazil - which makes them very attractive to GE," the US company says.

Walter, with 520 employees, is being acquired from Czech investment firm FF Invest, which took over 100% ownership in July 2006. Czech engine maker Avia and precision casting firm PCS were subsequently acquired by FF Invest and merged into Walter.

Terms of the GE deal, which requires regulatory approval, have not been disclosed. The acquisition does not include Walter's existing facility in Prague, GE says, and the company will be relocated within the Czech Republic.

Walter is GE Aviation's first acquisition in Eastern Europe, but not the first by a Western engine manufacturer. In 2001, United Technologies acquired 85% of Polish engine maker PZL-Rzeszow, which is now part of Pratt & Whitney Canada.

In 2006, UTC company Sikorsky acquired 100% of state-owned Polish aircraft manufacturer PZl-Mielec.

Walter's 750shp (560kW) M601E powers the L-410UVP-E20 commuter produced by Czech manufacturer Let Aircraft Industries, while the 780shp M601F powers the impoved L-420.

Seen as a lower-cost alternative to the PT6A, the engine has also been retrofitted to Air Tractor agricultural aircraft, Beech King Airs, Cessna 207s, de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otters and a wide range of other types.

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