July 12, 2012 / 1:58 PM / 6 years ago

GKN eyes narrowbody jet growth, nears COMAC deal

FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - Britain’s GKN Plc is focused on winning more work in the single-isle aircraft market and is close to signing a major deal to supply Chinese planemaker COMAC’s C919 jet, its aero chief said on Thursday.

GKN’s recent $985 million purchase of Volvo AB’s aerospace division, which specializes in lightweight airframe and engine components, will help it win more work on the next generation of short-haul jets such as Airbus’ A320neo and Boeing Co’s 737 Max, Marcus Bryson, chief executive of GKN’s aerospace unit, told Reuters at the Farnborough Airshow.

“One of our problems has always been out lack of exposure on the narrowbody planes ... but the big growth is in that narrowbody market, so our thrust is to try and get more content on those aircraft,” said Bryson.

“We think there’s a good chance we can get more content on the A320neo and the 737 Max.”

GKN, which makes airframes for Airbus and Boeing, does significant work on larger jets such as Boeing’s 787 and Airbus A380 but has no content on the 737 Max.

Bryson said GKN was also close to winning a significant contract on China’s first homegrown single-aisle passenger jet. COMAC has, so far, received around 280 orders for the C919.

“I‘m hoping to have a formal agreement signed with COMAC by the end of the year for a major piece of composite structure on the C919,” said Bryson.

Volvo Aero will take some 18 months to integrate into GKN’s aero unit, but will put it in a stronger position in both in structures and on engines, he added.

The airshow has been relatively subdued, marked by a lack of firm orders, with the majority of those placed being commitments to buy planes at a later date. Bryson puts this down to a flurry of large orders in recent years and an uncertain economic backdrop.

“It has seemed low key - there’s concern about world macro- economic conditions, especially with regards to Europe. Also, big orders go in waves and we had a huge wave last year with the advent of the neo and the Max, which has settled down a bit now,” he said.

Editing by David Holmes

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