Air Transport World

Busting out in Belfast: freed of government ownership at last, Short Brothers is becoming a force in international aerospace. (Commuter-Regional World) (company profile)

Freed of government ownership at last, Short Brothers is becoming a force in international aerospace.

Belfast-Bombardier's late-1989 acquisition of Short Brothers is beginning to release the full potential of this historic Northern Ireland company as a force in the international aerospace industry, according to senior executives.

Shorts claims to be the oldest established aircraft builder in the world-it made Wright Flyers under license early in this century-but under ownership of the U.K. government for 45 years after World War 11, it suffered badly from bureaucratic inertia and severe underfunding.

All that changed with the June, 89 announcement by the Conservative government, then headed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, that the company was to be privatized and taken over by Bombardier, the Montreal-based transportation-equipment conglomerate.

On June 7, 1989, formal agreement was exchanged between Tom King, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Bombardier Chairman Laurent Beaudoin. The package cost the U.K. government [Br pound]750 million, [Br pound]400 million of it to write off old debts and recapitalize, the rest to cover initial losses and to provide funding for re-equipment. Bombardier paid just C$60 million-less than its cash balance.

"An ideal company"

"This was the biggest and best thing that ever happened to us," Managing Director Roy McNulty told ATW "Bombardier is an ideal company for Shorts. The deal they did has given the capital we needed and they have given us the encouragement and freedom which we need to get on with it."

Few Canadian accents are heard around the Short Brothers works here. Bombardier did not take over day-to-day running of the company, instead leaving the existing team, under McNulty, to continue the revival plan that it had been struggling to put into place under government ownership. …

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