Samsung reopens talks with Fokker Aircraft


SAMSUNG, the South Korean conglomerate, has re opened detailed negotiations to buy the Dutch Fokker Aircraft manufacturing company.

The talks, intended to be concluded within the next two months, may be the last chance for Fokker's manufacturing plant, which is rapidly working through its order backlog following the collapse of its parent company earlier this year.

The talks restarted after a group involving the Korean company failed to win a place in a consortium to design a 100 seat short haul regional jet for China.

Samsung has ambitions to expand into manufacturing regional jets and. with a potential Chinese link ruled out, Fokker offers access to jet technology.

AI(R), the regional aircraft joint venture between British Aerospace and the Franco Italian group ATR, has formed an alliance to design a 100 seat regional jet with Aviation Industries of China and Singapore Technologies.

If the negotiations to acquire Fokker are successful, Samsung is thought likely to retain manufacturing of the existing Fokker 70 and 100 aircraft in the Netherlands. The proposed Fokker 130 aircraft, under discussion before Fokker's collapse in the spring, would probably be manufactured in Korea once development had been completed.

However, time is short if Fokker is to survive. The company's manufacturing workforce has already been reduced several times and further cuts are likely next month as the last batch of aircraft due to be assembled are processed.

Fokker's design team has already shrunk to a level which might not allow it to complete work on the Fokker 130 project, which is at an early stage. Some work on a cockpit for the aircraft has been done, but new wings and engines are likely to be needed for the design.

The manoeuvring by Samsung and AI(R) could lead to two 100 seat aircraft being developed for the regional airliner market, perpetuating overcapacity in a sector dogged by poor profitability.