SEATTLE, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Stelia Aerospace, a large maker of commercial aircraft structures and components, is considering putting a production facility in the United States to be closer to customers and increase its purchases in dollars, a senior executive said on Thursday.
Stelia, formed last month from the merger of Airbus subsidiaries Aerolia and Sogerma, is considering aircraft seat production in the United States, among other options, Francis Archambault, director of business development at Stelia, said at an industry conference near Seattle. The planning is preliminary and no time frame has been set, he said.
Stelia, which makes business and first-class seats, large aircraft structures and equipment, said European aerospace suppliers are well-prepared to meet single-aisle aircraft production at Airbus’s targeted rate of 46 a month in 2016.
“The job was very well done in terms of building capacity for this ramp-up,” Archambault said at the conference, organized by the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance.
Boeing Co plans to increase output of its rival 737 jet to 52 a month in 2018, from 42 a month currently.
Archambault would not comment on the capacity of the European suppliers to support higher rates at Airbus.
Stelia aims to increase its purchasing in dollars toward 50 percent, Archambault said. Dollar-denominated purchases at the combined group have increased to 34 percent from 17 percent five years ago, he said. Dollar-denominated purchases help hedge against currency swings, because commercial aircraft are priced in dollars.
Stelia is looking across the United States for a possible plant location, using an analysis Airbus performed when it placed an aircraft assembly line in Alabama. That factory is due to produce its first airplane next year, for JetBlue Airways .
The Stelia investment, if it comes, would be in line with significant growth in aerospace manufacturers in the United States since 2013.
Stelia also has sizable manufacturing operations in Morocco and Tunisia, and that is another growth area for investment, Archambault said. In terms of labor cost, “it is better than Mexico, and more stable,” he said. (Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)