B/E Aerospace

B/E Aerospace’s Tucson plant makes luxury aircraft interiors.

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star 2013

Florida-based B/E Aerospace, which makes luxury aircraft cabin furnishings at a plant in Tucson, has agreed to be acquired by aviation communications and electronics supplier Rockwell Collins Inc. in a deal worth $6.4 billion.

Rockwell, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also will assume $1.9 billion of net debt as part of a deal announced Sunday and expected to close by next spring.

B/E officials said its headquarters operation in Wellington, Florida, would be eliminated as part of the companies’ combination, but the impact on Tucson and other U.S. operations is unclear.

Officials of Rockwell and B/E Aerospace did not immediately respond to queries regarding the future of B/E’s Tucson operation, at 1851 S. Pantano Road.

B/E reported 604 local full-time equivalent employees at the start of 2015, down about 100 from the prior year, in the Star 200 survey of Southern Arizona’s biggest employers. The company did not provide updated figures for this year’s Star 200.

A B/E Aerospace spokeswoman told the Florida Sun-Sentinel that the company headquarters in Wellington would close following the sale, and the company said recently a “super first-class” interiors plant near Miami would be consolidated into a larger operation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

According to regulatory filings, B/E had 10,057 employees and 25 main operating facilities worldwide at the end of 2015, including 16 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and facilities in the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Germany and Nogales, Mexico.

The Tucson plant is B/E’s seventh-largest manufacturing plant, at 142,500 square feet.

In a prepared statement, Rockwell Collins Chief Executive Kelly Ortberg said the deal would combine Rockwell’s expertise in cabin electronics and information management systems with B/E Aerospace’s work on cabin products.

Besides cabin seating, B/E Aerospace manufactures aircraft lighting, oxygen systems, water and waste systems and food and beverage preparation equipment.

“We see tremendous opportunity to better serve our commercial aviation, business jet and military customers through broader offerings,” Ortberg said.

B/E Aerospace founder and Chairman Amin Khoury said the deal will give shareholders an immediate premium as well as shares in a strong combined company.

“We feel confident that this combination delivers significant long-term benefits neither company could realize on its own,” said Khoury, who plans to retire once the deal is done.

The acquisition must still be approved by shareholders from both companies, and get regulatory approval.

Rockwell said the deal will save about $160 million in overlapping spending and boost earnings per share within a year. The merged company will have nearly 30,000 employees and about $8 billion in annual revenue.

After the deal closes, two B/E Aerospace board members will join Rockwell’s board.

B/E Aerospace Chief Executive Werner Lieberherr will also be named executive vice president and chief operating officer of Rockwell’s new aircraft interior systems section, the companies said.

Shares in B/E Aerospace rose $8.28, or 16.4 percent, to close at $58.89 in trading Monday on the Nasdaq, while Rockwell Collins gave up $5.25, or 6.2 percent, to close at $79.21 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner