United Technologies to exit helicopter industry - WFSB 3 Connecticut

United Technologies to exit helicopter industry

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WFSB file photo of Sikorsky Aircraft WFSB file photo of Sikorsky Aircraft

Helicopter-making will no longer be a part of one company, if its board approves.

United Technologies Corp. announced Monday, after more than 85 years, it will pursue the separation of Sikorsky Aircraft.

A decision over whether Sikorsky will be spun off or sold is expected by the end of the third quarter, UTC said.

"Our strategic review has confirmed that exiting the helicopter business is the best path forward for United Technologies," said Gregory Hayes, UTC president and chief executive officer.

Hayes called Sikorsky the world's premier helicopter company. He also said it was well-positioned for long-term growth.

“However, separation of Sikorsky from the portfolio will allow both United Technologies and Sikorsky to better focus on their core businesses,” Hayes said.

Excluding Sikorsky, UTC said it expects 2015 earnings per share of $6.35 to $6.55 on sales of approximately $58 billion to $59 billion.

Including Sikorsky, the company now anticipates earnings per share of $6.55 to $6.85, down from the previous expectation of $6.85 to $7.05.

The announcement has plenty in Stratford wondering what is next.

"Everybody is just waiting to hear if we're being sold or if we're being spun off," said tool maker Ron Lucas, who has worked at Sikorsky for 26 years. "The rumor that I heard today was that we're being sold."

The decision to either sell or spin off Sikorsky into its own company is expected in the next few months.

Earlier this month, it was learned that Sikorsky would be cutting 1,400 jobs worldwide, including 180 in Connecticut.

Teamsters Local 1150, which represents 4,800 company employees, said they have heard there were already some offers for Sikorsky.

Lucas said workers are already hearing about potential suitors.

"Couple of possibilities, again the rumor is Lockheed Martin and Boeing," Lucas said.

Don Schiffer said his auto shop, like most businesses on Main Street, depend on the thousands of cars that pull into Sikorsky's gates every day.

In fact, the helicopter plant is practically in his backyard, so hearing that United Technologies is ending its relationship with Sikorsky has everyone wondering what is next.

"We've been hearing it for about a month, some people think of it as a negative, others think of it as a positive with a new company coming in. I don't think Sikorsky is going anywhere, but obviously something like this creates some tension for everybody," Schiffer said.

Connecticut's politicians reacted to the news on Monday morning.

"Regardless of corporate structure, Sikorsky's skilled and dedicated workforce will continue to produce the world's best helicopters, a critical national security asset," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. "I will continue to strongly support military budgets that recognize the vital value of Sikorsky helicopters to our national defense, including robust funding in the authorization bill now before the Senate. For both military and civilian uses, Sikorsky's products are the gold standard, a fact unchanged by this planned shift in ownership."

Sen. Chris Murphy said he will continue to work to ensure that Sikorsky helicopters be made in Connecticut.

"I will remain in close contact with Sikorsky and UTC leadership as decisions are made over the next few months," he said. "And in Washington, I am committed to supporting robust federal funding that will protect and grow Connecticut's defense manufacturing industry and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports across our state.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro said the announcement was not unexpected.

“Whether it is Marine One, the Combat Rescue program, or ending no-bid contracts with a Russian state-owned arms dealer, I have fought for a steady supply of Sikorsky helicopters because they are the best made in the world and create good-paying jobs throughout the state," DeLauro said. "These jobs include everything from engineers to assembly line workers, at manufacturers both large and small, across the supply chain. I will continue to fight to make sure that all these jobs stay in Connecticut.”

In a statement, Stratford Mayor John Harkins said "Regardless of who owns Sikorsky, after the restructuring recently announced by UTC, the town of Stratford is looking forward to continuing its strong working relationship with Sikorsky for many more decades to come."

The state's Department of Economic and Community Development said in a statement "UTC's announcement today makes it clear the company is focused on its long-term growth, which has great economic development upside for our state in terms of jobs and capital investment. We will continue to watch closely developments with Sikorsky, but whether there is a sale of spin off, Connecticut has a compelling case to make in terms of our unparalleled workforce and aerospace supply chain. Connecticut is the ideal home for these types of innovative, cutting-edge companies.”

An official announcement on UTC's exit from the helicopter industry will be made during an investor meeting at the Paris Air Show

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