Smiths Industries to supply cockpit electronics to Airbus

SMITHS Industries, the engineering group, has made a major breakthrough by agreeing a deal to supply its flight management systems to Airbus, the European planemaker.

The company yesterday announced that Sextant Avionique, the state-owned French electronics group which is a major supplier to Airbus, will include Smiths' technology in its electronics for the cockpit.

The deal allows Sextant to go head to head with Honeywell, a rival US supplier, on cockpit systems for the Airbus. Smiths already supplies a similar flight management to several models of Boeing.

Smiths would not disclose the financial details of the agreement, which is unlikely to start contributing to its profits until deliveries start until 2002. But Sir Roger Hurn, Smiths' chairman, said the deal was "qualitative rather than quantitative" for the company because it gives Smiths a good chance to expand the amount of work it does for Airbus. Sir Roger said neither Boeing nor Airbus had resisted the company supplying parts to both aircraft manufacturers.

Smiths' system will be especially important to Sextant in the US market, where Boeing dominates but where Airbus is making rapid strides. By being able to offer the same system which pilots are already used to, Sextant stands a good chance of winning in the battle with Honeywell.

Buyers of Airbus aircraft can currently choose either supplier to fit out the cockpits, but until recently Sextant has been hampered by its inability to offer a full range of equipment.

The news came as Smiths announced that profits for the six months to 31 January increased by 11 per cent to pounds 89.3m.

Investment column, page 24