GKN To Buy Airbus Plant For Up To GBP150 Mln

September 11, 2008

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British aerospace company GKN is set to buy a wings factory at Filton in Britain from European plane maker Airbus for up to GBP150 million pounds (USD$265 million), a source with knowledge of the deal said on Wednesday.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deal could be announced as soon as Thursday.

GKN and Airbus declined to comment.

Filton, where the Anglo-French Concorde was partly developed and produced in the 1960s, will continue to supply Airbus.

The deal follows almost a year of negotiations and is part of Airbus efforts to attract outside investment to its plants to help fund composites development for its new A350XWB aircraft.

It was not immediately clear how much GKN would invest in the factory following the transfer of ownership.

Britain's minister in charge of businesses, John Hutton, is expected to visit the Filton plant to mark the deal.

Selling Filton was originally part of a broad Airbus plan to sell up to 7 European aerostructure plants in return for investment in new materials needed to make the A350XWB light and fuel-efficient, matching Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

But talks to sell two airframe plants in France and three in Germany broke down in the summer when financing dried up during the global credit crisis.

Airbus says it will spin off the unsold French and German plants to new subsidiaries and sell them when markets improve.

In a deal seen as separate from the effort to fund a next-generation airframe for the A350, Airbus recently sold a German cabin interiors plant at Laupheim to Germany's Diehl and Thales of France. The plants are set to be transferred to the two buyers on October 1.