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Pilatus lands in arms of Swiss investors

Pilatus is to remain in Swiss hands

(Keystone)

The Unaxis company, formerly Oerlikon-Bührle, is to sell its Pilatus aircraft company to a group of predominantly Swiss investors.

A sale had been expected for some time, following Unaxis' decision to concentrate its activities on equipment and services for the information technology industry.

In a statement on Thursday, Unaxis said the buyers were Jörg Burkart of Zurich, Hilmar Hilmarsson of Greppen, IHAG Holding of Zurich and the Pension Fund of the healthcare group F. Hoffmann-La Roche in Basel.

The deal is expected to be concluded by the end of January, and all parties have agreed to keep the sale price under wraps until then.

Pilatus, based in Stans in central Switzerland, is the world's leading manufacturer of single-engine turboprop airplanes, and will continue to be led by the same management team.

The future owners have said they are committed to further developing Pilatus and that they will seek to list the company on the stock exchange within the next few years.

The chairman and chief executive of Unaxis, Willy Kissling, said he was pleased that Pilatus was being bought by Swiss investors, and that he was confident the sale would be in the interests of customers and employees, as well as the region of Stans in canton Nidwalden.

"We are fully convinced of this solution, since it allows Pilatus with its rich tradition to remain an independent company while maintaining the jobs of the company's employees in Switzerland and broad."

Pilatus, a leading company in the European aviation industry, achieved sales of SFr435 million ($259 million) in 1999.

At the end of the third quarter of 2000, orders received had increased by 64 per cent to SFr492 million, while sales expanded by 20 per cent to SFr299 million compared to last year's figures.

Founded in 1939, Pilatus made its name in the production of military training aircraft. Some 450 models of the PC-7 were produced by the company. Its Turbo Porter also made a name for itself as the "jeep of the air".

However, Pilatus aircraft have not always been used for civilian purposes. During the Vietnam war, armed versions of the PC-6, constructed under licence, took part in special operations.

The use of armed PC-7 aircraft by a number of countries also caused problems for the company, which was accused of violating Swiss law on war material.

swissinfo with agencies


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