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Monday, March 7, 2011

AgustaWestland and BA609 - Bell Finally Ready to Sell?

Bell Helicopter has agreed to sell its share in the BA609 civil tiltrotor to AgustaWestland, the Italian helicopter manufacturer's CEO Giuseppe Orsi said here at Heli-Expo on Mar. 5, writes ShowNews' John Morris.

Just a day later, Bell CEO John Garrison gave a far-less definitive answer when asked to confirm he had agreed to sell the BA609 program, but it is clear the two companies are getting closer to a deal in the long-running saga.

blog post photo
Photo: AgustaWestland

A year ago Orsi said that AgustaWestland’s frustration over Bell dragging its feet on the program had forced him to set a deadline of end-June 2010 on the fate of the program. An agreement was reached, but negotiations have been stymied by difficulties in transferring assets from Bell to AgustaWestland.
These problems revolve around separating the intellectual property rights of the civil tiltrotor from the U.S. military’s V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, which Bell builds in partnership with Boeing.
“We are now developing a very definite separation of intellectual property rights from the V-22,” says Orsi. “Bell has agreed to sell; we have agreed to buy. We hope the deal can be concluded within the next couple of months.”
Bell's version? "We continue to work on the best way to go forward to certification [of the BA609] will take a partnership to get there," says Garrison. But he did concede the negotiations are "active", noting a Bell team is heading back to AgustaWestland this week.
Asked why Bell would want to sell its share in the BA609 program, Orsi says “just compare our range of civil helicopters with theirs. It is clear where they must allocate their resources instead of looking at a limited market.”
Ironically, Bell used to be a partner in what is now the AgustaWestland AW139, the world’s fastest selling medium twin-engined helicopter with more than 500 delivered or on order. Bell is now exploring a competitor under its “Magellan” program for a future medium twin.

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