24 July 2013

Continental Purchases Thielert

On 23 July 2013 Continental Motors announced that they had purchased Thielert Aircraft Engines for an undisclosed sum.

At first blush this purchase by Continental looks like a great match. Thielert has been in bankruptcy for five years now and run by a temporary administrator who has been looking for a buyer through the Long Recession. The company has other concerns, as founder and ex-president Frank Thielert has been charged with fraud over misrepresenting the value and finances of the company during earlier attempts to find buyers and investors. Frank Thielert was arrested and jailed in mid June 2013 by a German bankruptcy court judge as a potential flight risk.

Continental Motors has been pursuing diesel aircraft engine technology itself and is actively working on its TD-300 engine, a derivative of the French SMA SR305-230 diesel engine. So with that interest in diesel engine technology and Thielert's need for a buyer, the purchase seems like a good move for both companies.

But there are also larger forces at work here. It helps to recall that in December 2010, Continental itself was purchased by AVIC International, and AVIC is wholly owned by the government of the People's Republic of China. That all adds up to the Thielert purchase being just another part in the Chinese government's large and growing portfolio of western aerospace firms. At this point it isn't clear how far they want to go in buying up companies, but time will tell if they just want a slice of the light aircraft business or something larger than that.

As part of the purchase the Thielert name will disappear. The company will become a division of Continental and will be called Technify Motors GmbH. Given the troubles the company has endured this is probably a good move on Continental's part.

Here is my revised current list of western aerospace firms bought out so far by non-western interests:

  • Cirrus Aircraft - Government of the Peoples Republic of China
  • Continental Engines - Government of the Peoples Republic of China
  • Enstrom Helicopter Corporation - Chongqing Helicopter Investment Co, China
  • Epic Aircraft - Engineering LLC, Russia
  • Flightstar Sportplanes - rights, tooling and parts inventory purchased by Yuneec International, China
  • Glasair Aircraft - Jilin Hanxing Group, China
  • International Lease Finance Corp - 90% New China Trust Co Ltd, New China Life Insurance Co Ltd, P3 Investments Ltd and China Aviation Industrial Fund
  • Liberty Aerospace - 75% owned by the Kuwait Finance House, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kuwait Finance House of Bahrain
  • LISA Airplanes - 75% owned by Heima Mining Company, China
  • Piper Aircraft - Government of Brunei
  • Superior Air Parts - Weifang Tianxiang Technology Group, China
  • Thielert Aircraft Engines - Government of the Peoples Republic of China

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