747-800.jpgCould Stork, the Dutch industrial group, be the next western firm to succumb to Chinese money? Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad reports (Dutch) that Joop Post, a former European member of parliament, is acting as exclusive negotiator for Avic-1, the Chinese state-run aviation firm, for a possible takeover of Stork's Aerospace division.

Stork faces an uncertain future after Candover, the UK private equity firm, withdrew its bid for the company earlier this month. The company is also being courted by an Icelandic investment group, LME which has build a 43% stake in Stork and refused to sell out to Candover.

Nevertheless, LME is more interested in Stork's food systems business which has ignited rumours that Stork Aerospace, better known by its historic name of Fokker, could be sold to the Chinese.

Post told the newspaper that an attempt by Avic-1 to acquire Dutch car manufacturer Nedcar and Maastricht Airport was abandoned this week, but the deal to acquire Stork's aerospace operation looks more promising.

Avic-1 sought to take over all three Dutch businesses in a €5bn deal which confirms the ambitions of Avic-1 to spread its wings way beyond China.

Earlier this year, Avic-1 tabled bids for six Airbus plants in Europe that are being auctioned off by Airbus in an attempt to save more than €2bn a year. The Chinese aerospace company is also investing $400m in a new regional jet planned by Canada's Bombardier — see this story for more.

Thanks to China's fast-growing aviation market, Avic-1 is now taken much more seriously in the west. Airbus, in particular, is keen to source more components from low-cost Asian suppliers and Avic-1 will build an assembly plant in China for the Airbus A320 aircraft. Avic-1 also supplies the rudder for Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner.

The historic Dutch aircraft maker Fokker was acquired by Stork in 1996 and the company refocused to become a specialist supplier of structures, wiring and services.

Stork Aerospace was selected this year to supply flaps for the new Boeing 747-800 (pictured), which bridges the gap between the legendary jumbo and Boeing's new Dreamliner. This was a breakthrough deal for the Dutch firm and probably explains current Chinese interest in Stork Aerospace.

Nedcar is, like Fokker, a Dutch engineering firm that has seen better times and Chinese interest in the carmaker was rumoured last year — see this story.

A Stork spokesman confirmed that the company was approached by Post and Chinese businessman Andy Chen about the deal, but dismissed the proposal as not being serious enough, Het Financieele Dagblad reported.


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