September 12, 2012
Diehl Aerosystems is evaluating whether it could take over the 49% stake held by Thales in the Diehl Aircabin joint venture. “It is possible essentially to take over the Thales stake, but we have not made a decision yet and we have to see whether we really want to take that on, too,” Diehl Aerosystems CEO Rainer von Borstel told Aviation Week on the sidelines of the ILA Berlin Air Show.
Diehl Aircabin is the former Airbus Laupheim plant that is specialized in cabin installation work. It was sold as part of an Airbus and EADS strategy to reduce its production depth. It was taken over by Diehl and Thales initially, but Thales has since decided to no longer focus on the cabin business, but rather focus on other fields such as in-flight entertainment (IFE).
Diehl taking over the shares would be a major stretch for the company that has almost quadrupled in size over the past two years through various acquisitions. Industry sources say there are talks ongoing with at least one additional party that look realistic enough to be concluded successfully.
Von Borstel says that following the massive ramp-up and high development expenses, particularly on the Airbus A350 cabin, the company now has to focus on improving profitability. “We want to grow profitably and we have to have some years in which we make money,” he points out. But that will not be easy because the company has to invest €40-50 million, roughly 10% of annual sales, into ramping up production alone.
Diehl, like many other Airbus suppliers, is faced with having to specify components to at least three different A350 batches that will make early production aircraft significantly different.
Diehl wants to disperse the notion that suppliers cannot cope with the Airbus and Boeing production ramp-up. “We will do our homework,” von Borstel stresses.
Diehl has bought several smaller companies to be able to offer almost anything inside an aircraft cabin except for seats and IFE. One aim is to integrate the skills better. As one of the first products coming out of that strategy, Diehl is offering automatic overhead bins to aircraft manufacturers. “It has not yet been accepted by customers,” von Borstel says, but talks are ongoing. Instead of opening the bins by handle, passengers and cabin crew would press a button to open or close the bins.