Let it be said, Pierre-Eric Pommellet, appointed CEO of Naval Group from the end of March (March 24-25?), Was chosen by the State, and only by the State, which assumes this choice in undressing Thales somewhat. And it was not the group chaired by Patrice Caine, who lost his number two, who imposed it to bring the naval group into line, explain government sources. Pierre-Eric Pommellet “is not the Thales man at Naval Group, we summarize to close this fires debate, which could ignite the social body of naval group. There is also no hidden agenda “. A statement also intended to put an end to all fantasies about a future development of the capital of Naval Group with a takeover of Thales, which already holds 35% of the capital.
“Some will like to read the appointment of Pierre-Eric Pommellet as a victory for Thales over Naval Group, a stranglehold of Thales over Naval Group. But it was the State which proposed Pierre-Eric Pommellet and we simply took the ‘Thales opinion “, says a government source. “In the end, the managing director of Thales checked all of our boxes: industrial profile, connoisseur of major exports, connoisseur of the defense sector, loyal and competent”.
The next board of directors, meeting next February, will validate the choice of the nominations committee made this Friday, then it will be the turn of the general meeting scheduled for March. Finally, his appointment will be formalized by decree of the President of the Republic. otherwise Pierre-Eric Pommellet’s mission letter, known as PEP, is clear: “no strategic change” compared to the presidency of Hervé Guillou, specify government sources. Naval Group must stay “Autonomous” (implied in relation to Thales), i.e. with its own “freedom to undertake, innovate and trade”. “The Naval Group’s strategy remains the same, to be a world leader in the conception, design and construction of heavily armed military ships”, they said.
1 / Deliver national programs on time and on time
When Pierre-Eric Pommellet gets up in the morning, he will have to “tell yourself that the boats that I owe to the national navy are in the nails and on time”. In its mission letter, the delivery of national programs will therefore appear at the top of PEP’s priorities. “Mr. Pommellet’s roadmap, above all else, is delivering the national programs”, explains a government source. And there are many ! This is the case with the Barracuda nuclear attack submarines, which Naval Group is scheduled to deliver this summer. This will also be the case for the 3rd generation SNLE program, the choice of propulsion for the future aircraft carrier taken by this year, frigate deliveries Defense and Intervention (FDI). Major programs for France. In short, PEP will have to have pep …
“The order book is richly stocked and we welcome it. But the raison d’être of Naval Group is to serve the interests of defense, to perpetuate the national navy and our deterrent tool. This is the number one mission by Pierre-Eric Pommellet “, explains a government source.
2 / Pacify relations between Naval Group and Thales
Relations between Naval Group and Thales have always been complicated, especially since Thales became a shareholder. This is often the case between a prime contractor and an equipment supplier. In the past five years, these relationships have even deteriorated due to the strong enmity between Hervé Guillou and Patrice Caine. This generated a lot of rage and mistrust between the two groups. The summit was reached during the joint tender launched by Belgium and the Netherlands on mine warfare. It is the Pommellet blue helmet that will work to find solutions to pacify relations between the two groups. He is in the best position to do so because of his good understanding with Patrice Caine and his intimate knowledge of Thales and the files.
To achieve this objective, the two groups will have to work before anything else on the industrial and commercial cooperation agreement, which had been negotiated at the time of Thales’s entry into the capital of Naval Group in 2007. It defines the border who does what on the national market, for export etc … This agreement does not prohibit Thales – it is explicitly mentioned – from selling its equipment to foreign prime contractors. “It is completely provided for in the texts. There is no debate on this”, recalls a government source. This modernization work should therefore bring out the gray areas, which create divergences between the two groups. This clarification work is important for Thales and Naval Group to start on a completely healthy basis.
3 / Bringing the Australian contract to a successful conclusion
Pierre-Eric Pommellet will also be scrutinized on his way of carrying out the Australian contract (Barracuda submarines), which currently generates some concerns. A slight delay in crossing a first milestone was noted at the end of October and pointed to in Australia. A first milestone that Naval Group would have been well advised to hold, but it remains only a small delay of about six weeks on a program, which will be spread over 40 years. “At this stage there is no danger in the home, there is no worry”, estimates a government source. It is right to keep as much as Naval Group also dialogues with Lockheed Martin, which provides a certain number of interface data on the CMS (combat management system).
The next major milestone in this extraordinary program is set for early 2021. Naval Group and France are “very concentrated” on the success of this milestone, notes a government source. Generally speaking, “there is a good understanding between the two partners, between Naval Group and the Australian Ministry of Defense”, ensures this same source, which points the finger at local political instrumentalizations on this minimal delay. Minister of the Armies Florence Parly, who will meet her Australian counterpart at the Munich security conference in mid-February, will then be able to give a new precise update on the progress of the program.
4 / Bringing Franco-Italian cooperation to life
Pierre-Eric Pommellet will also have to support the joint venture between Naval Group and Fincantieri, Naviris, which has been operational since January 13. It remains under close surveillance by France. “This joint venture will have to demonstrate results or not. If it demonstrates, we will continue and we can even strengthen our ties. If it does not demonstrate this, conclusions will be drawn. At this stage, they are only engagement “, recalls a government source. The results of Naviris will notably be judged on the joint projects that France and Italy have already identified, in particular the mid-life renovation of the Horizon frigates, which will come in the midst of military programming law (LPM).
Other longer-term projects are also targeted, such as the light frigate project, planned after the LPM to succeed the surveillance frigates. Naviris will have to work on a whole series of R&D (Research and Development) on fuel cells, the autonomous ship or even the stabilization of platforms. Projects that could be shared between Naval Group and Fincantieri. Finally, Naviris will pursue a common export trade policy in surface buildings. This will be one of the keys to success or not of this common society.