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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Aero Vodochody to Cut Staff 27 Percent Plus

The Czech aerospace manufacturer Aero Vodochody plans to sack 450 of its 1,644 employees, a cut of more than 27 percent, by September as part of a major restructuring by its new owners.

"Our aim is to make Aero healthy, profitable, and in all respects a competitive company as soon as possible," said Aero President Petr Ondro. The company has said it will be profitable within a year. "Aero must not only become able to cover its current costs, but also ensure expected return of capital to its owner."

Aero expects losses of 1 billion Czech korunas ($46 million) for 2006 after a 1.38-billion koruna ($63-million) shortfall a year earlier. The company had negative net worth of 7.3 billion koruna ($335 million) at the end of 2006. The manufacturer, which builds S-76 airframes for Sikorsky Aircraft, was acquired by the Czech-Slovak private equity Penta Investments in January.

Ondro was named president following that 100-percent buyout. He succeeded Petr Klimeš. The new owners also replaced the company's board of directors and six of nine members of its supervisory board.

Ondro said the company will invest 150 million korunas ($6.9 million) in buying new and upgrading existing equipment in its plants. In 2006, the company invested 58 million korunas ($2.6 million).

"This year, we are expecting an increase in the volume of S-76C helicopter production by a fifth compared to 2006," Ondro said. Aero Vodochody also builds the two-seat L-159 jet, the L-39, and center wing boxes for the C-27J Spartan military transport

Penta's plan for restructuring has three priorities: 1) development and production of aircraft and aircraft components in aerostructures, 2) development of the Vodochody Airport, and 3) cooperation with the Czech air force and potential new customers of the L-159 and L-39 aircraft.

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