Italian Government to manage U.S. naval shipbuilding program?

by Craig Hooper on November 29, 2010

If Congress acts upon the dual-buy or, if not, the Navy just ends up approving a down-select to build LCS-1 Freedom-class boats (perish the thought!), Italian managers will be in charge of a major U.S. naval shipbuilding program. You see, though most

people know that Marinette Marine is owned by the Italian company Fincantieri S.p.A., most do not know that Fincantieri is owned by Fintecna S.p.A., which is, um, a holding-company owned by the Italian Ministry of Economy.

Is this wise?

Well, no. The Italian government is not exactly a great steward for business–Here’s an example: Because of the Government’s fear of labor unrest, Fincantieri can’t get approval to fire people at their under-utilized Italian shipyards! That, in itself, must be pretty thin gruel for the guys Marinette set to be let go before the holiday payout period. At some point, Marinette’s union guys are going to get pretty angry subsidizing unused Italian shipbuilders, and there’s gonna be trouble.

And where, exactly, is Fincantieri going to get money to develop the shipyard beyond it’s current anemic recapitalization plan? I sure don’t see the Italian Government racing to subsidize non-Italian workers–but what I do see is the Italian government setting up a dual-track system where subsidiaries (i.e. Marinette Marine) get the short end of the stick (scanty investment, poor wages, etc.) while the Italian workers and facilities get handled with kid gloves. So, that said, I don’t like seeing a U.S. combatant program becoming a cash cow for the Italian government–once finances get tight in the EU Zone, then the first place Fincantieri is going to cut to the bone will be their overseas subsidiaries.

Second, who is going to end up owning this meant-to-be-privatized company? Sure, it may never sell–rumors of a Fincantieri IPO are an annual occurrence, just like the Swallows of Capistrano. But for Fincantieri CEO Giuseppe Bono (photo upper right) it always is gonna happen…tomorrow. Or next week. It withdrew an IPO back in 2002–I mean, it’s been this way for more than a decade. But if they do sell, who will end up owning the new company? Some Russians? Saudis? Who?

It is a level of uncertainty I don’t relish foisting upon the Navy. Not that it couldn’t work, but I’d sure like to see more discussion of just how insulated and protected Fincantieri’s American operations are from the chaos that is Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy. Can’t we give ’em Northrop Grumman’s Gulf Coast Yards instead?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig Hooper November 30, 2010 at 6:07 am

Yeah, I agree that these guys brought in more than the over-extended Crane-and-food-equipment holding company Manatowoc did, but it is still going to be the bare minimum.

And I worry that your Italian co-workers are going to get a far better deal than hard working Marinette folks. I mean, the current chief of Marinette is a good guy, but he will still need to answer to his foreign boss…the Italian government.


Brad Gustafson November 29, 2010 at 10:20 pm

I’ve been employed at Marinette Marine for 12 years. Been through 2 buyouts now, and just so you know, there hasn’t been any Itallian presence in the yard. Business as usual. The only thing that they’ve done is pour a bunch of money into upgrades, and new facilities. So yes, it was a good thing that they bought us.


Ken Adams November 29, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Who runs Fincantieri Marine Group? Fred Moosally. You seriously think he’s going to let the “home office” micromanage him?


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