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Latecoere May Remain Independent as Search for Partner Continues

Latecoere SA said it may choose to remain independent as its finances improve, while the the French maker of aircraft doors continues its search for a partner.

Latecoere, which sells doors, wiring and engineering services to all major airframe makers, has been seeking an investor or a combination with another aerospace supplier to gain critical mass as investment in new planes increases.

“We’re operating in an industry that’s fragmented,” Chief Executive Officer Francois Bertrand told journalists at a briefing. “There are large number of medium-sized companies, like ours, that will be consolidated in the next few years and we’ve said early on we want to be an actor in consolidating.”

Since the Toulouse, France-based company began seeking a partner more than a year ago, finances have improved as orders and production rise. First-half net income rose to 15.5 million euros ($21 million) from about 400,000 euros a year earlier. Latecoere predicted 20 percent sales growth for this year, on an operating margin of 7 percent, with 8 percent in 2012.

Bertrand said the search for a partner is “global.” Spirit Aerosystems Holdings Inc. has been named in French media as a potential buyer in the past. While Europe boasts more than 20 companies making structural parts for commercial aircraft, the field in the U.S. has been winnowed to Spirit and Triumph Group Inc., which owns Vought Aircraft Industries.

Latecoere, whose largest customers are Airbus SAS and Brazil’s Embraer SA, gets 56 percent of sales from plane structures. Wiring contributes 32 percent and engineering 12 percent. Latecoere is supplying doors for four Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners each month.

Debt as of June 30 was 353 million euros. Latecoere aims to cut debt by 50 million euros in 2012, Bertrand said.

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