Spirit AeroSystems
Fuselage assembly at Spirit AeroSystems, Wichita, Kan.

Boeing, Airbus Negotiating Split of Spirit Aero

April 8, 2024
Boeing intends to acquire the airframe supplier that is critical to its 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner programs, but some of Spirit Aero’s operations are more important to Airbus.

The Boeing Co. is negotiating with its principal rival Airbus S.A. over how to divide up the assets of Spirit AeroSystems, the aerostructures manufacturer that is a supplier to both companies. Spirit AeroSystems has a market value between $3.5 and $4 billion, but no costs have been announced in connection to the ongoing discussion.

Boeing’s eventual acquisition of Spirit Aero seems to be a foregone conclusion – inasmuch as the latter is a principal supplier to its 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner programs, and has been identified in the past year as a source of many delays in the Boeing supply chain. Last fall Boeing invested $100 million in Spirit AeroSystems in a move meant to stabilize the business, and a former Boeing executive Patrick M. Shanahan was installed as the new CEO of Spirit.

Following the January incident involving a 737 MAX 9 jet, Boeing’s manufacturing programs have come under wider scrutiny, and the urgency to restore reliability to its manufacturing programs has become even more pressing. Both Boeing and Spirit Aero have been evaluated by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Administration for their roles in supplying the 737 MAX 9 aircraft on which four bolts failed to secure a sidedoor plug in the January 5 accident.

However, Spirit AeroSystems is also a significant supplier of aerostructures to the Airbus A350 and A220 programs, so coordinating the separation of those parts of the business is critical to any deal that would be approved by commercial aerospace regulators in the U.S. and Europe.

According to one report, Boeing initially hoped to buy all of Spirit AeroSystems and then determine a fair separation of the assets, though current negotiations involve all three companies. While it’s understood that Boeing would incorporate the Spirit Aero fuselage assembly operations in Wichita, Kan., the disposition of other plants is not known. Airbus is reported to be particularly determined to gain control of Spirit AeroSystems’ Kinston, N.C., composite components plant, and an aircraft wing assembly plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Spirit AeroSystems is an organization assembled over the past two decades from plants formerly operated by Boeing, Bombardier, and BAE Systems.

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