Fears over 800 Kilkeel aerospace jobs

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Over 800 staff at a Kilkeel aerospace factory are anxious about their job security after being briefed on Tuesday over a possible takeover by a German company.

Staff at the Co Down plant of B/E Aerospace were briefed by management that a takeover was possible but that everything was being done to protect their jobs.

The Florida based-company, valued at $10bn, is one of the biggest parts providers in the aerospace industry and is widely reported to be in talks with German company Recaro about some form of takeover.

On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that B/E’s shares rose on hopes that the company “will merge, be bought or split its distribution operations” from its businesses which manufacture aircraft interiors and other parts.

The journal reported that analysts and investors speculated over whether the company has a deal already in the works after it announced on Sunday that it is exploring “strategic alternatives” that could include a sale or merger of the entire company or a sale or spin-off of part of it.

South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells said all Kilkeel staff were briefed on Tuesday on a possible takeover.

“The obvious concern is that any takeover could have an impact on jobs,” he said. “There are 836 full-time jobs in Kilkeel so it could have a significant impact either positively or negatively.

“There are also hundreds of spin-off jobs too. One upholstery company has 300 jobs in Rostrevor.

The Kilkeel factory produced 100,000 seats last year and their productivity is at an all-time high, he said.

“They were given a letter of reassurance, saying that management were doing all that they could to make sure there was no negative impact.

“This company is proportionately more important to Kilkeel than Shorts is to Belfast.

“Agriculture, fishing and construction have had a difficult time recently but the B/E Aerospace factory has been reaching record levels of productivity.”

There was no comment from B/E Aerospace in Florida on Tuesday night, nor from the Stormont Department of Enterprise.

B/E told the Wall Street Journal it hasn’t made any final decisions on deals and doesn’t have a timetable.

Asked whether Recaro was interested in buying any assets from B/E Aerospace, Chief Executive Mark Hiller told reporters: “We are looking into it.”

Most analysts said a sale was most likely to work if B/E Aerospace split the interiors business from distribution, Reuters reported.