United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Markab Capital signed an agreement to form a strategic partnership with Italy’s SuperJet International, a subsidiary of Russia’s Sukhoi, to produce aircraft in the UAE.
The factory is scheduled to be completed in 2025, becoming the first of its kind in the Arab world to assemble and manufacturer passenger-carrying aircraft.
According to Abdullah Al Qubaisi, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Markab Capital, the Emirate company is “proud of signing the agreement with the Italian company, SuperJet International, which aims to establish an aircraft factory that is the first of its kind in the Arab region,” he was reported as saying by Gulf News.
According to Al Qubaisi, the initial investment will be up to $180 million, and the initial production capacity of the site would be between 10 and 15 aircraft per year, with increasing production rate being assessed following requests received by the site. It was not immediately clear where in the UAE the assembly line would be located.
SuperJet International is a subsidiary of Russia’s Sukhoi, which in turn is a subsidiary of Russia-based Irkut Corporation. The latter is also a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). Sukhoi designed, developed, and has been manufacturing the Sukhoi Superjet 100.
SuperJet International was established in 2007, as a joint-stock company with an address in Venice, Italy, according to the Italian Business Register. The register also indicated that its activity relates to the “implementation of the “Superjet 100 program” project consisting of the development, engineering, marketing, after-sales assistance, and maintenance program for civil aircraft produced in the Russian Federation”.
Frozen Italian assets
Previously, the company was a joint venture between Sukhoi, which had a 51% stake, with the remaining stake being held by Italy-based aerospace manufacturer Leonardo. In 2016, Leonardo sold its shares in the joint venture, holding a 10% stake going forward, while UAC held the rest, according to the Italian company’s 2016 final report. Leonardo is a joint shareholder (50%) of ATR with Airbus (50%). It also supplies various fuselage components for the Airbus A220 and A321, as well as the Boeing 767 and 787.
However, once Russia invaded Ukraine and the European Union (EU) continued to impose sanctions upon Russia and entities based in the country, the Italian Guardia di Finanza (GdF) froze the assets of SuperJet International. The GdF, which reports to the Minister of Economy and Finance and has competencies in general economic and financial crime-fighting, froze around €150 million ($159.2 million) of assets, including five aircraft related to the 90% of share capital held by the Russian manufacturer, per reports by local media.
One Sukhoi Superjet 100, registered in Italy as I-PDVX, was moved from Marco Polo International Airport (VCE), in Venice, to Zhukovsky International Airport (ZIA) in February 2022, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.com. It was the only Superjet 100 associated with SuperJet International, per planespotters.net data.
According to the Italian Union of Chambers of Commerce, SuperJet International had a revenue of €27.2 million ($28.8 million) in 2020, ending the year with a net loss of €44.5 million ($47.2 million). The company had 155 employees in 2022 with a share capital of €32.9 million ($34.9 million).
AeroTime approached Markab Capital, the GdF, and SuperJet International for comment.