Engineering group GKN has bought a manufacturing plant at Filton, near Bristol, from Airbus for £136m.
The long-promised deal will see GKN invest £125m over the next five years in retooling the plant to switch the manufacture of airplane wing components from metal to composite materials.The move is expected to improve its position as a primary contractor to the world’s largest maker of commercial airliners.
The UK government will provide £60m in investment aid, repayable at commercial rates, and a further £50m investment in wing technology.
The deal is the first of several plants the European plane-maker is selling off under its €3.1bn savings plan.
The Filton plant, which makes and assembles wing components, employs 6,500 people, of which 1,500 will be taken over by GKN. All wings for Airbus planes are currently assembled at the Airbus plant in Broughton, north Wales.
GKN said the operation it is acquiring would generate £375m in revenues in 2009 and generate both earnings and cash. It is paying £100m upfront and the remaining £36m in instalments from 2010 to 2015.
The deal gives GKN access to the new wide-bodied A350 plane that Airbus is planning as the rival to Boeing’s best-selling 787 Dreamliner - and, eventually, the replacement of its A320.
Tom Enders, Airbus chief executive, said the deal would enable the plane-maker to focus on being an aircraft architect and integrator.