A consortium comprising aerospace giants Airbus Defence & Space and Safran/Snecma is in the process of buying the Arianespace rocket-launching business complete with the 35 per cent stake held by the French government’s CNES space agency.
But the plan is at risk of stumbling – at least for some months – while a European Commission investigates the deal.
What had been expected to be a formal approval process has hit the buffers while the EC’s Competition Directorate-Generale (DG-COMP) examines concerns that Airbus’s satellite manufacturing division could end up with preferential treatment by Arianespace.
The scheme was proposed to DG-COMP on Jan 8 and normally a response is wrapped within 25 days. However, the EC department has now elevated its investigation to a deeper examination of the deal, and not helped by objections from Thales Alenia of France and Italy, which also builds satellites, and raised concerns about the possibility of preferential treatment back in 2014.
Safran owned Snecma builds the rocket engines for Arianespace while Airbus takes care of just about everything else. The end result was going to be a 50-50 j-v between Airbus and Safran.