Belfast Telegraph

Community relief as 800 B/E Aerospace staff are given job reprieve

By Clare Weir

Around 800 workers at B/E Aerospace in County Down have been given a temporary reprieve after the company announced it was to separate the plane seat manufacturer into a standalone company rather than sell it off.

The community surrounding the Kilkeel factory, which is by far the biggest employer in the area and supports hundreds more supply chain jobs, had been left in limbo for over a month while the US-owned parent company explored a possible sale or restructuring.

The firm, which makes items such as seats, food carts and equipment fasteners for virtually all the world's airlines and aircraft manufacturers, had said that putting itself on the market was one option it was considering to "increase shareholder value".

There were fears that work taking place in the Kilkeel plant, which is B/E's largest UK manufacturing hub, could have been moved abroad if the factory had been bought over by a large European competitor.

However, the company's board of directors has now announced that it is to split the businesses into two independent, publicly traded companies with one focused on aircraft cabin interior equipment, design, development, manufacturing, certification and direct sales on a global basis – and the other focused on distribution, logistics and technical services for the aerospace and energy services markets.

B/E Aerospace chief executive Amin Khoury – who co-founded the company in 1987 – said that creating two public companies offered a number of benefits, including more flexibility for each business to pursue the appropriate growth and investment strategies.

However, he added that the company was continuing to review its strategy and that there could still be "change of control transactions", meaning that either of two new businesses could be still be sold.

South Down MLA Jim Wells said it was a testament to the workforce that despite the uncertainly, production was continuing at full capacity.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the announcement was "very positive", given that the plant was a key operation with the B/E manufacturing operations.

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