Up, up and…return: Govt. seeks to repolonise helicopter company

AW149, a medium-lift military helicopter www.pzl.swidnik.pl

The news comes amid broader government interest in “repolonising” foreign-owned companies, from banks to shipyards.

Poland’s biggest helicopter manufacturer, PZL Świdnik, could partially return to Polish hands.

Based in Świdnik, outside the city of Lublin in eastern Poland, the plant dating back to 1951 was a major producer of helicopters during the Cold War. In 2010, it was purchased by Anglo-Italian helicopter company AgustaWestland, which is now branded as Leonardo Helicopters.

Now talks on the company’s so-called repolonisation are underway, according to Artur Soboń, Deputy Minister for Investment and Development.

The news comes amid broader government interest in “repolonising” foreign-owned companies, from banks to shipyards.

Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry has been mulling ordering helicopters as part of the modernisation of the army. Although a tender for helicopters for the special forces was cancelled this month, the ministry highlights that the broader helicopter programme is still underway.

“The purchase of helicopters for the Armed Forces is an important investment in Poland’s security, so it must be supported by extremely careful analysis,” it said in a statement published on June 14.

The government is keen for Polish contractors to be chosen – which is where the Świdnik-based plant could come in. “I am speaking to Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak about how army orders should come not just from abroad, but from Poland too. So that this plant can develop,” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during a visit to Lublin on May 26, referring to PZL Świdnik.

A partial stake in PZL Świdnik could be taken over by the State Treasury or by a subsidiary that would be incorporated into Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa, the holding company uniting Polish state-owned defence industry companies.

Soboń indicates that PZL Świdnik would be a strong contender in army helicopters tenders, adding that companies owned by the state will have priority for money for army modernisation.

“I will be truly calm about Świdnik’s future when it is a capital part of the Polish defence industry,” he said, in the context of the repolonisation talks.