Genoa - Beware of dropping a hint that Piaggio Aero Industries Ltd is now entirely foreign-owned. The company shareholders’ recapitalization has injected Eur 190 million meaning the Indian Tata Group and Mubadala, a venture fund based in Abu Dhabi. now jointly own over 85% of the shares. But far from being a cause for bitterness, Ceo Alberto Galassi feels this is something “to be proud of.”
The Italian shareholders Ferrari and Di Mase, are still in but they are little more than a brand stamp…
“I don’t agree. Piaggio Aero has been in foreign hands since 2008. Tata and Mubadala have increased their participation from 66% to 85%. This new asset mix doesn’t change anything. We’re lucky to still be “foreign”, as attracting foreign capital to Italy gets increasingly harder. As an Italian, I am very proud that Piaggio has once again been able to attract investments. There’s also the fact that Mr. Ferrari (a common name in Italy) increased his shares from 1 to 2%, this shows that he is firmly on board and believes in the company”.
In 2008 a group of eight banks provided finance to the company. You are still in debt renegotiation talks.
“The renegotiation is complex and is on schedule, we aim to conclude it by year’s end”.
The company had outstanding debts with suppliers to the tune of Eur 60 - 70 million, unpaid salaries…Have you come clean?
“I’d like to point out that salaries have always been paid on time. Our outstanding debt has been reduced. Those 190 million will go towards clearing our debts with suppliers and most importantly to finalize the factory in Villanova d’Albenga”.
When will it be completed?
“Work will conclude in Spring 2014. Clearly, though, the construction must proceed in conjunction with what will be the outcome of the administrative process that the Finale factory is undergoing. We are doing our part. I hope state institutions do their part”.
The P1xx Aircraft project, an investment that cost EUR 120 million, have you sold it to China?
“We’re not selling it to China. We ‘re looking, for two years now, for a European, American or Asian partner to jointly develop that plan, as we’re unable to produce it on our own: €600 million is needed. Already in the 90s, Piaggio got into trouble by going it alone with the development of the P180, we can’t take any chances”.
You recently sold two P180 Aircrafts to China, with options for eight more. Where will the aircrafts be built? Labor Union fears it will be in China.
“No. P180s sold to China will be built in Liguria. Furthermore, it is my hope that in the future the aircrafts be built there in the countries where they’re being purchased. I’d like to be able to count on three or four production assembly centers in our main market countries – China, India, Brazil, USA – as this would translate into further growth for Piaggio Aero and consequently more jobs in Italy”.
Speaking of P180s, in 2008 you sold 36 units, as of this year you’re not likely to go beyond five. How do you expect to re-launch the company?
“By diversifying. We’re aiming at the military sector that is not cyclical as business aviation which is tied to stock performance fluctuations. The military industry has global scope. We don’t produce offensive equipment but we can make surveillance equipment. We’re going with manned and unmanned aircrafts. Today Europe buys exclusively American as a European product does not exist. Our aircrafts, produced in Europe, will be another option”.
How about the Genoa and former Finale factories? What will the future hold for them?
“The production of the new line: manned and unmanned surveillance and patrol aircrafts, based on the P180. There’s also the task of going ahead with the AvantiⅡ which we’ve been working on for the last two and a half years”.
Your employees are on unemployment insurance benefit plan. Will they get out of it?
“Yes, thanks to the new production plan. The unions will be the first to have it, as soon as it’s ready”.