When it announced it was in talks to buy fellow French company Zodiac Aerospace back in January 2017, Safran probably did not have a complete picture of its target's woes.
Safran would have assumed that there was a certain amount of fixing required, but – as with a second-hand car – if it was in perfect condition, then that would be reflected in the price.
Zodiac's problems were not a secret as such – it had been flagging a crisis in the cabin equipment and seating operations since 2015 – but Safran appears to have been surprised by the depth of restructuring required.
The deal was completed in February 2018, and it has taken around 12 months to return Zodiac to some sort of alignment.
But even then, Safran admits, there is more to do, with engineering and supply-chain processes weaker than anticipated.
Industrial challenges are, of course, fixable given Safran's deep pockets and human resources (its chief executive speculates that one reason for Zodiac's malaise was too-rapid expansion as an independent company) but there are deeper issues to overcome.
While Zodiac has been, in effect, fighting itself, its competitors have not stayed still but have taken advantage of its position. In addition, and perhaps more crucially, Zodiac's customers have lost trust in the company as a result of interiors-driven delays.
Consistent delivery performance and improved quality control should help to reassure clients. But Zodiac will also have to demonstrate flexibility in the short term to regain acceptance for the long haul.
While the strategic rationale for the acquisition remains solid, rebuilding that diminished trust is a process that will not happen overnight.
Source: Flight International