Andrew Doyle/MUNICH

EADS and Alenia are close to agreeing a restructuring of ATR which will lead to conversion of the turboprop manufacturer into an "integrated company". The move is aimed at securing the long-term viability of the ATR 42 and 72 product lines. The ATR revamp will follow the transformation of Airbus Industrie into an integrated company in the New Year.

EADS and Alenia hope to boost efficiency by combining their ATR-related assets within a single organisation under a unified management team. ATR, like Airbus, was established as a Groupement d'Intérêt Economique (GIE), responsible for the marketing and support of the consortium's aircraft, with engineering and production activities managed separately within the partner companies.

"We are close to an agreement," confirms EADS co-chief executive Rainer Hertrich. "I think we will be able to achieve it in the next few weeks."

Though Hertrich says the "long-term goal" is to establish an integrated company, Alenia says the "new ATR "will initially take the form of "an enlarged GIE with a new management", with the aim of "relaunching the ATR family, reducing production costs and investing in new maritime surveillance and cargo aircraft versions". EADS and Alenia will each retain a 50% shareholding.

Combined production of the 48-seat ATR 42 and 68-seat ATR 72 is running at around 30 aircraft per year. Hertrich says EADS will post a "slight loss" from its half-share this year, but that restructuring should allow the programme to break-even at production rates as low as 1.5 aircraft per month.

ATR vice-president sales Antoine Bouissou, says the company should sell an average of 30-35 aircraft per year over the next 20 years. "We have a market which we think is going to be fairly stable," he says. ATR's principal competitor in the turboprop market is Bombardier, offering its Dash 8 family.

ATR meanwhile plans to step up co-operation with Embraer following the acquisition of a 20% stake in the Brazilian manufacturer by a French industry consortium. Bouissou says the pair plan joint product support in the USA and Asia Pacific, and a joint e-business portal for spare parts and documentation.

Alenia remains keen to enter the 100-seat regional jet market, but talks with Airbus, Fairchild-Dornier and, most recently, Bombardier have failed. Embraer chief executive Mauricio Botelho has described co-operation with ATR as a step towards closer ties with Airbus: "Today we are a distant cousin [of Airbus] and I hope we'll get much closer."

Source: Flight International