Airbus Weighs Purchase of Spirit Plant in France to Protect A350

Airbus SAS is exploring the purchase of a factory owned by U.S. supplier Spirit Aerosystems Holdings Inc. to limit production risks on its A350 wide-body, the head of the aircraft program said.

Spirit, which is providing fuselage panels for the new plane, manufactures the pieces in the U.S. before transferring them for assembly to a site in Saint Nazaire, northern France, where it employs 200 people. Airbus has assisted with improving the quality of work in Saint Nazaire, which program head Didier Evrard called “sub-standard.”

Airbus is seeking to minimize the risks on its A350 program by monitoring suppliers in order to step in early when issues arise. In 2011, Airbus purchased Germany’s PFW Aerospace GmbH, a maker of metal components, after that company lost access to credit.

“We’ll look and see if the most efficient thing for Spirit and Airbus would be for us to manage the plant,” Evrard said at the Paris Air Show. “If we manage it, we buy it.”

Airbus increased efforts to help Spirit more than a year ago, dispatching personnel to a site in Kinston, North Carolina, and to Saint Nazaire. The company will decide on the future ownership of the French facility in coming months, said Evrard, without providing details on the possible cost.

Spirit would keep the contracts it has with Airbus in case of a takeover of the Saint Nazaire facility, Evrard said. Besides the work on the A350, Spirit makes sections for every Boeing Co. model as well as the CSeries by Bombardier Inc.

“Spirit is working closely with our customer and making progress in delivering on our commitments,” spokesman Ken Evans said by e-mail. “Any discussions with Airbus fit into this context.”

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