Finmeccanica Says Superjet Pact Must Be Restructured or End

Finmeccanica SpA said its Superjet regional plane venture with Russia’s Sukhoi must be restructured or abandoned, calling the current arrangement unsatisfactory.

“We have to consider a potentially different collaboration with our Russian partners,” Finmeccanica Chief Executive Officer Alessandro Pansa said in a briefing at the Paris Air Show.

The Superjet 100 plane has struggled with quality and production issues, with the first aircraft for a western customer -- the Interjet discount unit of Mexico’s ABC Aerolineas SA -- due for delivery this week.

Finmeccanica may quit the partnership even at the cost of losses if Sukhoi parent United Aircraft Corp. doesn’t agree to changes, though it would be preferable to modify the pact rather than scrap it, Pansa said. The move comes as the CEO seeks to restructure the debt-laden Italian company to revive earnings.

UAC said that it and Finmeccanica are currently looking at ways to further develop a relationship that’s “reaching a new level” with the start of deliveries to an overseas client.

“This is a good time to consider opportunities to increase the effectiveness of our partnership,” it said in an e-mail.

The two companies manage the project via separate ventures, with one in charge of building the planes and the other support.

“What we’re trying to do is have a more integrated approach between the Russian and the Italian teams,” said Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of the Alenia Aermacchi unit involved on the Italian side.

Pansa said commercial aircraft remain a core activity for Rome-based Finmeccanica amid the strategic review, and that he’d support a move by ATR -- its turboprop venture with European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. -- to build a 90-seat model.

(Adds response from United Aircraft Corp. of Russia starting in fifth paragraph.)
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