A joint venture between Boeing and Colorado-based aircraft-parts supplier Woodward may be more likely than an acquisition, an analyst says

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Boeing has held preliminary talks with aircraft-parts supplier Woodward as it scouts potential targets to help build a new division into a $50 billion behemoth, said people familiar with the talks.

No deal is imminent from the discussions nor is there any guarantee Boeing would reach a final agreement with Woodward, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are confidential.

Woodward disputed reports, which first appeared in The Wall Street Journal, that it’s in takeover negotiations with Boeing.

A joint venture would be more likely than an acquisition since about 35 percent of Woodward’s sales are to energy companies, George Godfrey, an analyst with C.L. King & Associates, said in a report to clients Thursday. Woodward’s aerospace business also has a jet-engine partnership with General Electric that might prove difficult for Boeing to unravel.

“We would be surprised if a takeover of the whole company is completed by Boeing,” Godfrey said.

Woodward broke its silence after Thursday’s trading session, in which its shares rose 7.5 percent to $82.93, the biggest gain in more than three years. The company’s statement saying it wasn’t in takeover talks sent shares falling as much as 12 percent in after-hours trading.

“Woodward is not in discussions with Boeing over a possible acquisition of Woodward, and will not provide any further comment on this story,” the Fort Collins, Colorado-based company said in a statement. A Boeing spokeswoman declined to comment on the deal rumors.

Boeing fell 4.8 percent to $329.66 Thursday amid a broad-based market selloff.

Boeing has been looking to joint ventures and acquisitions as it works to beef up a new division, created last year, to provide maintenance, spare parts, retrofits and other services to airline and military customers. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg has set a target of expanding service division sales from $14.6 billion to $50 billion over the next decade.

The jet maker has been taking over work previously performed by its suppliers as it builds a portfolio of highly profitable spare parts to be sold to airlines on the aftermarket. The areas targeted by the company include actuators — a specialty of Woodward’s — along with avionics, seats and engine covers known as nacelles.

Boeing last month unveiled a new venture with Adient, a supplier of automobile seats, to create premium, lie-flat seats for airlines.

A similar structure might allow Boeing to sidestep complicated negotiations with GE, a critical trade partner, over GE’s pact with Woodward, Godfrey said. The 50-50 joint venture designs and manufactures fuel components for several GE engines, he said.

Woodward, with a market value of about $5 billion at the close on Thursday, builds control systems for turbine engines as well as actuators — motors that control a range of motion within aircraft components. The company also provides controls to the energy sector, from producers of electricity to companies drilling for oil and gas, according to its website.

Boeing, the largest U.S. industrial company by market value, is also in talks to form a commercial-jet venture with Embraer. Such a deal would expand its plane lineup and reap additional sales for Boeing Global Services, the new division.