Fokker collapse could put 1,500 Shorts jobs at risk

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The Independent Online

Shorts Brothers, the Belfast aerospace company, warned last night that 1,500 jobs would be at risk from the collapse of Fokker, the Dutch aircraft maker.

Bombardier, which owns Shorts, confirmed that it may form part of a rescue bid for Fokker, which on Tuesday sought creditor protection after owner Daimler-Benz withdrew financial aid.

Shorts, which employs 6,800, has about 700 staff working directly on manufacturing wings for the Fokker 100 and Fokker 70 jets and a further 800 involved in making Fokker components and support services.

The Belfast company said it had received confirmation that its financial exposure would be covered, and the company would continue wing production on a slightly reduced schedule. Rolls-Royce and Dowty, part of TI Group, also supply Fokker.

Shorts said that some employees working on Fokker operations would be transferred to other production lines.

The Dutch government said that it was talking to several potential purchasers. It is thought these include IPTN, an Indonesian state-run company. Aircraft makers from Korea, China and Brazil could also gain from Fokker's expertise in the design and manufacture of 70-125-seater aircraft. Leo Steijn, a Fokker spokesman, confirmed the company is holding talks with outside partners, but declined to give details.

However, Michel Lord, vice-president of Bombardier, told the Dutch media last night that the company might consider the acquisition of all or part of Fokker.

Mr Steijn said Fokker had enough cash in hand to continue for the time being. The company is negotiating with the government on early payment for four Fokker 60s for the Defence Ministry and one executive jet for the royal family.

Further division between Holland and Germany opened up yesterday as Hans Wijers, the Dutch Economics Minister, criticised Daimler-Benz for refusing to compromise on a rescue plan. Daimler had demanded government money. Meanwhile, Daimler accused the Dutch government of abandoning its aerospace industry.