Merger spells more uncertainty for Portsmouth’s shipbuilding future

WORK The first section of the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier rolls out of the BAE Systems shipbuilding hall in Portsmouth Naval Base onto a barge.  Picture: Steve Reid (121432-204)

WORK The first section of the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier rolls out of the BAE Systems shipbuilding hall in Portsmouth Naval Base onto a barge. Picture: Steve Reid (121432-204)

Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier could bolster Portsmouth economy

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THERE was more uncertainty around Portsmouth’s shipbuilding future today after BAE Systems announced plans to merge with rival aerospace firm EADS.

A BAE spokeswoman told The News ‘anything could happen’ when asked if the £30bn deal would impact on operations at Portsmouth Naval Base – but then added the company aims to remain at the ‘same capacity’ as now.

The merger talks pile yet more uncertainty on 1,700 of BAE’s workers at the base as the firm carries out a review of its shipbuilding division.

The deal with EADS would create the second largest aerospace firm in the world.

Both companies have a strong presence in Portsmouth. BAE employs 3,500 people at the base in its shipbuilding and ship repair divisions, and a further 700 in Broadoak, Hilsea. EADS owns space satellite firm Astrium, which has 1,400 staff in Anchorage Park.

BAE is building the navy’s two new £6bn supercarriers and is in line to construct the new Type 26 frigates.

But where those warships will be built is yet to be announced. BAE would not be drawn on whether a merger could see the firm downsize its shipbuilding arm.

A spokeswoman said: ‘We can not effectively say one way or the other at the moment. We do not know what could happen. We’ll know more on October 10.

‘We are confident our business will still remain in the capacity that we are operating in now. Anything could happen, but we are obviously focused on what we are doing.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘I’m waiting to see that BAE’s and EADS’ future plans are.

‘I’ll be looking to see what’s going to be the maximum benefit for jobs and investment in Portsmouth, because they are clearly both significant companies for our city.’

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