AviationWeek.com contributor, Andy Nativi reports from Genoa that AgustaWestland plans to have acquired and fully integrated Polish helicopter maker PZL Swidnik by year-end, after being named the preferred bidder in the privatization process.
European antitrust authorities still have to rule on the deal, although it is expected to receive the green light. Last year, the Polish government decided to privatize PZL Swidnik, with 87.62% up for sale.
AgustaWestland is paying $112 million for the asset. It previously had a 6.2% stake in PZL, which AgustaWestland has long regarded as an important strategic partner.
The transaction greatly expands AgustaWestland's European industrial presence, notes CEO Giuseppe Orsi, because it gives the Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer three domestic bases--Italy, the U.K. and now Poland.
Poland is a mid-level player in the European helicopter arena, in large part because of PZL Swidnik's work. It builds airframes for several AgustaWestland helicopter types, including the AW119 and AW109 families and the AW139, and is also involved in the AW101. PZL and AgustaWestland are close to celebrating the manufacture of their 1,000th airframe.
This relationship, says Orsi, offers both "high production quality at competitive industrial costs with performances that we will help to improve." The integration within the group will be accomplished gradually. But Orsi points out that "there is no overlap," and generating cost-savings should be possible.
As a result of the established ties to PZL, Poland chose AgustaWestland rather than Aero Vodochody as the buyer. China's Avic also expressed interest, since it plans to produce PZL's W-3A Sokol helicopter under license. Warsaw was also attracted by AgustaWestland's promise to transfer technology to the Swidnik, Poland-based facility and to expand the business, which currently has $170 million in turnover.
Moreover, AgustaWestland may introduce the 6.4-metric-ton W-3A Sokol twin-turbine helicopter and the lighter, 1.8-ton single-engine SW-4 in its product catalog. The W-3A could be a low-cost complement to the AW139, while the SW-4 fills a niche AgustaWestland that does not now address.
The deal also more than opens the door for AgustaWestland to Poland's military and commercial market, both for support contracts and new sales. In that respect, Agusta is challenging Sikorsky, which has owns PZL Mielec. The company has a major role in building international Black Hawks.