Could it be possible that Airbus Defence and Space will be monopolist in European space industry?
Airbus Defence and Space along with its partner, French Safran Company (both companies are involved in Ariane 6 project) probably are going to buy Avio – Italian company responsible for designing and manufacturing Italian Vega rocket. Airbus and Safran are interested in 85% of shares hold by Cinven equity firm (UK) which bought Avio from Carlyle and Finmeccanica for $2.6 billion in 2006. Another shareholder, Italian based Leonardo (previously Finmeccanica) was also interested in buying Avio shares along with whole Cinven company. Unfortunately negotiations with Leonardo were not finished with positive result. Transaction seems attractive for Airbus and Safrane. If they will buy Avio, they will also acquire 3.4% shares of Arianespace belonging to Avio. After buying shares of French government in Arianespace it would be next step to significantly improve position of Airbus in Arianespace.
Italian Space Agency (ASI) is determined to keep Avio, manufacturer of Italian Vega rockets, in Italian hands. Italian authorities are possessing 30% of shares main contractor in Vega manufacturing – ELV SpA while 70% holds Avio. If Avio would be bought by Airbus, situation would become quite hard for Italian government, because Italian rocket would not be Italian anymore. Government will be forced to explain why rocket built thanks to public money was sold with whole company. It is also against will of chief of ASI Roberto Battiston, who considers independent apace access as key part of Italian space program. It is worth to remind that Avio is subcontractor for Ariane 6 booster; it gives combination of mutual relationships and dependencies of business which gives Airbus advantage over competition in the race for Avio shares. Vega rocket was contracted for 13 launches until 2018 and after that moment Avio situation would depend on contracts for Ariane boosters (Ariane 6 will probably become operational on 2020) or further cooperation with Arianespace, where over 75% of shares are in possession of Airbus Defence and Space. Is it possible that David will win against Goliath and Italy will remain inside European Union with independent from Arianespace access to space, but one is sure – European space industry, raised on EU public money started to show that European Union is not monolith. Interests of France and Germany are under strong protection of EU what were clearly showed by case of Avio and Airbus; is it really complying with original idea of the European Union – this should be put under discussion in future for sure.
On picture above: Italian Space Agency President Roberto Battiston.