| PARIS, April 13
PARIS, April 13 Geci's Skylander turbo
prop aircraft needs extra investments worth tens of millions of
euros, a report viewed by Reuters showed, as European Commission
probes into state aid previously awarded to the French
engineering group continued.
The expert report, commissioned by the French state, comes
as France's presidential election campaign heats up and as the
European Union's antitrust regulator examines several forms of
state aid worth some 50 million euros ($65.87 million) combined
The project to build the small, light Skylander aircraft
suitable for hard-to-access areas, should cost 306 million
euros, or 70 million euros more than initially planned, the
experts estimated, praising the project's technical quality.
The Skylander, which has yet to make its first flight and
should be delivered to customers as of 2014, is seen as key to
support the economy and industry of France's north eastern
The rescues of troubled industrial sites have become
battlegrounds in the election campaign, dominated by president
Nicolas Sarkozy and socialist frontrunner candidate Francois
Hollande, but any hint of more state aid would be met with a
wary eye by the EU's competition regulator.
The Skylander is designed to carry up to 19 passengers or
2.7 tonnes of cargo and to serve the needs of small airlines and
logistics specialists like FedEx as well as to conduct
surveillance flights. These operators seek light aircraft able
to land and take off from very small airports, sometimes with
Geci shares and those of its subsidiary Geci Aviation
were suspended from trading on Friday.
Geci Director Pascale Sansonetti told Reuters that the
company would soon issue a statement on the report. "The audit
has not been completed yet, talks are continuing."
The experts deemed Geci's plan to deliver 1,500 planes in 15
years too optimistic, not taking into account any possible
delays or adaptations to the aircraft. Delivery of 1,000
aircraft in 20 years - or 48 aircraft a year - would be more
realistic, they said.
Geci said in March that negotiations with Geci Aviation and
Russia's Aviamost to buy 40 Skylander aircraft and an option to
buy an additional 260 continued. The two had signed a memorandum
of understanding in November last year.
The first batch of aircraft would represent potential
revenues of $260 million, Geci has said.
($1 = 0.7590 euros)
(Writing by Caroline Jacobs; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)