Collins Aerospace Creates New Playing Field for OEMS

 - November 27, 2018, 10:51 AM
Collins Aerospace will combine the avionics and interiors expertise of Rockwell Collins with the diverse UTAS portfolio that ranges from mechanical systems to aerostructures, among other areas.

United Technologies Corp. (UTC) completed its $30 billion acquisition of Rockwell Collins, laying out a plan to emerge as an aerospace-focused company that comprises the newly formed Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney, UTC announced on November 27. The company, meanwhile, will spin off non-aerospace units, including Otis and Carrier, into independent entities.

Completion of the acquisition came shortly after receipt of China clearance, the final of the three key regulatory approvals. China’s signoff followed U.S. clearance on October 2 and European approval on May 4.

Announced Sept. 4, 2017, the acquisition is one of the largest among aerospace suppliers, creating a “super supplier” that combines UTC's portfolio of power generation, propulsion systems, and landing systems, and Rockwell Collins's expertise in avionics and cabin interior products.

“This is about as big a deal as it gets,” said Rolland Vincent, president of Rolland Vincent Associates and JetNet iQ creator/director. “The combination of Collins and UTC provides an unmatched spectrum of aerospace technology capability. It is a behemoth within civil and military aerospace.”

Rockwell Collins joins UTC Aerospace System (UTAS) to form Collins Aerospace, retaining the well-established branding of the avionics, electronics, and interiors giant. Collins Aerospace is broken into six major business units—aerostructures, avionics, interiors, mechanical systems, mission systems, and power and controls—and employs 70,000 people at 300 locations worldwide.

The new entity combined for $23 billion in annual sales in 2017; commercial business makes up about 75 percent of that total with government and military making up the rest. Forward-fit OEM applications represent about 60 percent of the sales. With a combined 16,000 engineers, the organization collectively invests about $3.1 billion in research and development.

Under the new structure, Kelly Ortberg, who had been CEO and president of Rockwell Collins, becomes CEO of Collins Aerospace, while UTAS president Dave Gitlin takes the role of president and COO. The combined entity is headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Engine and propulsion specialist Pratt & Whitney will remain a separate business unit under UTC. Including Pratt & Whitney, UTC’s aerospace business totaled $39 billion in 2017 sales.

UTC anticipates the deal will be accretive to earnings per share next year and will generate more than $500 million in cost synergies over the next four years.

"Collins Aerospace brings together two great companies with unmatched expertise in developing electrical, mechanical and software solutions," said UTC chairman and CEO Gregory Hayes. "We will have a laser focus on developing innovative solutions for customers and generating strong returns for shareowners."

The acquisition positions UTC to play a role in reshaping the aerospace industry, analysts believe. Ronald Epstein, managing director of equity research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, earlier had said the market would assess the underlying shift caused by the creation of super suppliers. “I think it’s going to be really important to the OEMs in how they partner with suppliers on future aircraft and how the future aircraft are integrated,” he said.

Vincent agreed. “It may be high time to re-think the notion of an OEM. In aerospace, we usually think of the aircraft final assembler as the top of the pyramid, but with the new UTC Collins organization, there is a new player at the chess table,” he said.

“Having a supplier this big raises important questions about the power balance between the primes and the contractors,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for Teal Group, added. ”We might see more friction between them, but more potential for new aircraft enabled by a large new player that might as well also be a prime.”

Coming with the acquisition are extensive plans for UTC to become solely an aerospace company with the separation of Otis and Carrier. Company executives believe the three-way separation will be complete in 2020, with separation activities occurring over the next 18 to 24 months. "Our decision to separate United Technologies is a pivotal moment in our history and will best position each independent company to drive sustained growth, lead its industry in innovation and customer focus, and maximize value creation," Hayes said.

The split will help focus UTC on a core mission, the analysts further agreed. “The idea of keeping UTC together was borderline untenable,” Aboulafia said. “Aerospace, air conditioners, and elevators are too divergent, and since they’ve become the biggest aero supplier in the world it’s important to be able to focus on integrating and growing that business.”

Vince also believes the aerospace focus should sharpen, saying, “The organization is exceptionally well positioned to capture additional business and become a massive supplier and technology integrator of choice across the sector.”