Taiwanese may bail out Fokker

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The Independent Online
DUTCH aircraft manufacturer Fokker, hauled back from the brink of bankruptcy at the weekend, could be permanently rescued by a group of Taiwanese businesses eager to break into the aerospace industry.

Hans Wijers, Holland's minister of economic affairs, admitted the Amsterdam- based company will be holding talks with potential saviours from Europe, north America and Asia during the five weeks that his government's pounds 200m lifeline, announced on Friday, has given the firm.

"There were several parties that have shown interest," said Fokker chairman Ben van Schaik. "I will not give a statement on whom. It's too delicate a situation. We shall survey the possibilities."

But while Western companies are worried about overcapacity in the sector and are reluctant to take on a debt-ridden albatross like Fokker, the Asians, particularly in Taiwan, are eager to gain the technical knowledge and management skills that would flow from a deal.

The Taiwanese have been attempting to break into the industry for five years.

In 1991, the Taipei government established Taiwan Aerospace Corporation (TAC) with 29 per cent state funding to help the island nation leap-frog into full aircraft production without going through the usual intermediate stages of maintenance and parts making.

TAC tried but failed to sign a $2bn (pounds 1.6bn) deal for 40 per cent of McDonnell Douglas's passenger jet division in 1992, followed by a collapsed 50-50 deal with British Aerospace to build regional jets that would have cost it $400m in start up costs alone.

Though TAC's role at the centre of Taiwan's aerospace ambitions is no longer assured, owing to its disappointing track record, other Far Eastern firms are still thought to be eager to get into the business.

Fokker, at 76, is one of the oldest names in aerospace, most famous for building the planes the Red Baron flew in the First World War. Its nose- dive began last week after German majority shareholder, Daimler-Benz, refused further financial support.

The company was granted four weeks' protection from its creditors for its three core aircraft manufacturing units before the Dutch government stepped in with its offer of aid.