February 1, 2019 / 9:25 AM / 19 days ago

Aeroplane parts maker FACC scouts for takeovers and ramps up Brexit production

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian aeroplane parts maker FACC is ready to spend 500 million euros ($572 million) on acquisitions to make it less dependent on suppliers, add new technologies and strengthen its core business, its chief executive said.

Austrian aeroplane parts maker FACC CEO Robert Machtlinger answers questions during a Reuters Interview in Vienna, Austria, February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Kirsty Knolle

The Chinese-owned group makes components for wings, tail assemblies and fuselages as well as engines and cabin interiors for planemakers including Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier. It expects revenue of 760-770 million euros ($881 million) for its 2018/19 business year that ends in February.

“Half a billion (euros), that is the amount of money we could use to make acquisitions in the next five years,” Robert Machtlinger told Reuters in an interview.

FACC, which belongs to China’s state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation, is screening the market for suitable takeover targets but there are no negotiations yet, he said.

In recent months, the firm has been increasing production of parts it makes for Airbus and Rolls Royce that are needed for assembly in Great Britain, the CEO said, as it prepares for Britain’s exit from the EU.

A Brexit agreement that would secure tariff-free trade and safeguard just-in-time cross-border supply chains still looks elusive just two months before the divorce.

Components for about four weeks of production are being sent to Britain, Machtlinger said. Quite a stretch for the company as normally the buffer would be two to four days.

“The majority of the (extra) costs are borne by the customer,” the engineer said.

Airbus, which accounts for half of FACC’s revenue, has threatened to shift future wing-building out of Britain.

That would not be a problem for FACC, Machtlinger said, as the company could easily adapt delivery routes.

Machtlinger, whose company generates half its revenue from European planemaker Airbus, a quarter from Boeing and also equips China’s planemaker Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC), does not expect the industry to be hampered by current U.S.-Chinese trade friction.

“Aviation is an export business for the U.S.,” Machtlinger said, adding that he did not think anybody wanted to change that.

He noted there was no such thing as a purely American plane: “This is a completely intertwined industry.”

The manager, who has been with the company for more than 30 years, expects revenue to pick up significantly in the second half of the 2019/20 business year with a 750 million euros order for the new Airbus 320.

His goal for 2020/21 is to increase the margin on earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to 8-10 percent from 6.5 percent last year and revenue to 1 billion euros, he said.

By 2030, he wants to make that 2 billion euros, betting that COMAC becomes a major customer.

Asked whether shareholders can hope for a higher payout for the current business year than the previous year’s 1.11 euros per share, Machtlinger nodded but did not elaborate.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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