Finmeccanica Removes Helicopter Head After Probe Fells CEO

Finmeccanica SpA delayed publication of its annual earnings and replaced some executives, including the head of the helicopter unit at the heart of a bribery probe that felled Chief Executive Officer Giuseppe Orsi this month.

Financial results, due March 12, may be delayed until April, the company said in a statement late yesterday. The Rome-based company also added members to its so-called surveillance board and tightened its internal audit operations to improve oversight of activities.

“Finmeccanica is determined to continue with the implementation of the restructuring plan of the group, in particular in some areas of activity, in order to achieve a significant and sustainable recovery of profitability and the ability to generate cash flow,” the company said.

Italy’s largest aerospace and defense company has been shaken by the arrest this month of Orsi on alleged fraud and tax evasion related to the sale of 12 AW101 helicopters to India. Orsi, who denies the charges, has since been stripped of his CEO role, which was handed Chief Operating Officer Alessandro Pansa and resigned the chairman title.

Finmeccanica shares rose 0.9 percent to 4.03 euros at 9:53 a.m. in Milan, giving the company a market value of 2.32 billion euros ($3.07 billion) and paring the decline to 15 percent since Orsi’s arrest this month.

Ansaldo Energia

Finmeccanica previously announced the goal of raising 1 billion euros through disposals to reduce debt of about 4.8 billion euros. The strategy is under review even as the process continues to sell the Ansaldo Energia business, with offers now in hand, the company said. The “portfolio of activities” is under review, which may led to the “deconsolidation of assets” to cut debt, Finmeccanica said.

Bruno Spagnolini, the head of AgustaWestland who is under house arrest, will be replaced with Daniele Romiti, Finmeccanica said. Other personnel changes include the appointment of Luigi Pasquali as head of the Telespazio space business, replacing Carlo Gualdaroni, and Alessandro Franzoni, who is taking over the torpedo-building Whitehead Sistemi Subacquei unit from Renzo Lunardi.

At a meeting yesterday, the board was presented with a plan for structural changes in the main aerospace, defense and security operations to cut costs. Among those are efforts to streamline European defense electronic activities, including job cuts, as three business units are folded into one.

Full-year results may contain further charges, including costs related to the Indian deal, Gabriele Gambarova, a Milan-based analyst at Banca Akros, said in a note. Other charges could include a writedown of goodwill on the company’s $5.2 billion purchase of DRS Technologies in 2008, Gambarova said.

Finmeccanica also may delay its annual general meeting to approve full-year results. The gathering will take place by June 29, the company said.

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