Aker Yards will acquire the shipbuilding facilities of Alstom Marine, including Chantiers De L'atlantioue. A new company will be established by the end of March, with Aker holding 75 percent and Alstom 25 percent, and with Aker acquiring the balance by 2010. Aker will pay 50 million euros for its stake in the new company, while Alstom will inject 350 million euros. Based on certain performance parameters, Aker will pay Alstom up to 125 million euros for the remaining 25 percent. Thus, Alstom is in effect paying Aker to take the shipyards off its hands.

Aker stated that its intention is to create one of the world leaders in the industry, focused on high value added ships, including cruise ships. The new company will consist of the yards in Saint-Nazaire and Lorient.

In a prepared statement, Aker said that the new company would benefit from a broadened product range and strong industrial synergies. Aker has 13 yards in five countries, including Aker Finnyards, which is presently building three Freedom-class ships for Royal Caribbean International. Chantiers is building four ships for MSC Cruises.

According to sources, Aker Finnyards has also been running out of room, so to speak, to build even bigger ships, so Aker has been looking at expansion options. The Freedom class is being built in the company's Turku facility, while the Helsinki yard is now outfitting ferries, being too small for the new generation of cruise ships, and the Rauma yard does steel work for ferries and other ships.

Aker said in its statement that the Saint-Nazaire yard is ideally positioned to handle the construction of very large ships and is able to respond to the cruise market, which demands vessels of ever increasing size. The deal will include the four cruise ships under construction but not LNG tankers, which will be completed under a subcontract agreement.