B/E Aerospace workers given pledge over US sale plan
Employees at B/E Aerospace in Kilkeel have been told that “their interests will be taken into account” as the US company explores a possible sale or restructuring.
The American firm, which makes items such as seats, food carts and equipment fasteners for virtually all the world's airlines and aircraft manufacturers, announced at the weekend that putting itself on the market was one option it was considering to “increase shareholder value”.
It has been reported that the German seat maker Recaro is interested in the firm.
B/E Aerospace has a fabrication facility in the Co Down town, its largest UK manufacturing hub, employing more than 800 people making furnishings for a large range of passenger and business aircraft for massive companies like Boeing and Airbus.
The pledge was made in a letter sent to staff, informing them of the latest developments.
Shares in the company soared after the announcement was made at the weekend.
The firm has tasked its financial advisors Citigroup and legal advisors Shearman & Sterling to help it explore options, which also |include merging or spinning off a division or unit as a separate company. B/E Aerospace has not given any other details such as whether it was in talks with any potential partners, or if there is a set timetable.
Interest in the company is expected to be high, with the International Air Transport Association reporting in March that 2014 global airline profits were expected to jump about 45% to $19bn (£11bn).
B/E Aerospace chief executive Amin Khoury — who co-founded the company in 1987 — has also predicted that this year will mark a fifth successive year of profitability for the global airline industry, which has been driven by continued growth in passenger travel and increases in airplane capacity.
The firm’s sales have risen at a double-digit rate quarterly for more than three years and it has outperformed 98% of all stocks on key metrics such as sales and |profit growth in recent quarters.
South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells said he met senior staff from the factory just last week and said the atmosphere was “very bullish and confident.”
He added: “I will be seeking a cast-iron guarantee that any sale or takeover or restructuring will not affect this top-performing team.
“This is a factory which at a time made 45% of all the passenger aircraft seats in the world.
“There is a lot of speculation ongoing and any sort of change would have a profound impact on the whole Mournes area.
“B/E Aerospace is a mainstay of employment in the area and has weathered the recession and come out the other side, using leading edge technology.
“I want to see investment and expansion here, no asset-stripping or moving of production or staff.”
NI21 MLA John McCallister also praised the “hardworking and talented” staff of the factory.
“The products made in Kilkeel are in demand from some of the biggest airlines in the world and this work should be retained here.
“The staff have proved their worth over many years.”
B/E Aerospace in Kilkeel has made economy and business-class seating for airlines including British Airways, Emirates, Qatar, Air France, Qantas, Continental, United, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, and Cathay Pacific.
Kilkeel acts as a "centre of excellence" for premium-class seating products within the company, which in turn has won a number of awards for its seating systems over many decades.