Italy’s Leonardo says in talks with Germany’s Hensoldt on possible JV

ROME/MUNICH (Reuters) – Leonardo and Germany’s Hensoldt are discussing a possible joint venture, the chief executive of the Italian defence group said on Thursday, adding that he hoped to have “news” in the coming months.

Leonardo is a shareholder in the German military sensor maker, alongside the German government which holds a 25% stake. However, it did not take part in a December capital raising which reduced its previous 25% stake in Hensoldt.

“We are now restarting the analysis of a joint venture. We are discussing with (Hensoldt’s) new management what we can do together, the table is open,” Roberto Cingolani told a post-results call.

Cingolani added that he met the head of Hensoldt a few weeks ago and that he hoped to have some “news in the coming months”.

Last year, outgoing Hensoldt CEO Thomas Mueller had raised the possibility of his company taking over Leonardo’s defence electronics division, but Leonardo’s then boss Alessandro Profumo dismissed the comments as “misleading”.

A Hensoldt spokesperson said on Friday that future Chief Executive Oliver Doerre had met with Cingolani in Rome and there is a list of possible cooperation projects between the two.

“However, there are no concrete plans for a joint venture,” said the spokesperson.

Leonardo’s decision not to take part in Hensoldt’s capital increase fuelled speculation of a lack of interest in collaboration between the two groups.

Cingolani said Leonardo had never opposed the recapitalisation, and the German government had appreciated the Italian group’s transparent position.

(This story has been refiled to correct the dateline)

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti and Alexander Huebner, writing by Miranda Murray, editing by Gavin Jones, Rachel More, Elaine Hardcastle)