An Austrian company Steyr Spezialfahrzeuge is reported to have supplied military vehicles to an elite unit of President Robert Mugabe in 2001, according to a cable released by Wikileaks.
The company is also reported to have supplied tanks to Botswana which allegedly financed the deal with funds earmarked for development assistance.
The cable did not disclose the value of the Zimbabwean transaction.
It said SSF was purchased from Canada’s Magna International in 1998. The Canadian company held a 66 percent stake.
General Dynamics took over SSF in 2003.
In 2005 SSF had 350 employees and annual sales of Euro 170 million.
Since 2005, SSF has signed several major export contracts, including orders from the Portuguese Army (Euro 365 million) and the Czech Defence Ministry (Euro 821 million) for 200 Pandur armoured vehicles.
Viewing cable 06VIENNA3588, AUSTRIA’S STEYR COMPANIES: WHO OWNS WHAT AND WHO DOES WHAT
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VIENNA 003588
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SUBJECT: AUSTRIA’S STEYR COMPANIES: WHO OWNS WHAT AND WHO DOES WHAT
¶1. There are several independent Austrian companies with the name
“Steyr.” All of them originally formed one company,
Steyr-Daimler-Puch (SDP). However, in the 1980s, SDP, one of
Austria’s largest industrial conglomerates, encountered major
financial problems that resulted in the company’s break-up into
various Austrian and foreign controlled entities. The “Steyr
companies” are now independent firms producing a wide range of
industrial goods. The most notable SDP successors are Steyr
Mannlicher (SM), which sells hunting and military rifles; Steyr
Spezialfahrzeuge (SSF), which produces busses, tanks, and armored
vehicles; and Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik (MSF), which assembles
automobiles for BMW, Chrysler, Mercedes, and Saab. SM and SSF have
occasionally been the subject of negative press criticism for
controversial arms sales to the Middle East and military sales to
African states. End Summary.
The Origins of Steyr: Steyr-Daimler-Puch (SDP)
¶2. Steyr’s origin dates back to 1864, when the company began
manufacturing rifles in Steyr, Austria. In the 1920s, the firm
merged with Austro-Daimler-Puch, a bicycle and car manufacturer, to
form Steyr-Daimler-Puch (SDP). SDP developed into a formidable
international company, producing rifles, ball bearings, bicycles,
motorcycles, cars, busses, trucks, tractors, agricultural machinery,
tanks and military vehicles. Following World War II, SDP added
tanks, armored vehicles (Saurer, Kuerassier, Pandur, ASCOD-Ulan) and
utility vehicles (Haflinger, Pinzgauer) to its product line. In
1980, SDP was Austria’s third largest industrial conglomerate with
over 17,000 employees. A major financial crisis in the late 1980s
led to reorganizations, outsourcing of productions to new companies,
sales of some productions and closings of others.
Steyr Mannlicher (SM)
¶3. In 1987, SDP established Steyr Mannlicher (SM) as a 100%
subsidiary concentrating on rifle production. Following a series
of ownership changes in the 1990s, Austrian Cura Investholding,
under the direction of Wolfgang Fuehrlinger, obtained SM. In April
2004, SM entered a joint venture with Malaysia’s National Aerospace
and Defense Industries to produce SM’s AUG A3 military assault
rifles for the Malaysian Army. SM consists of three companies:
Steyr Mannlicher Austria; Steyr Arms Inc. in Cumming, Georgia; and
Steyr Mannlicher SDN in Kuala Lumpur. All three operate as
independent companies, with Fuehrlinger as CEO. SM has world-wide
exports, with primary markets in Western Europe, Australia, the
U.S., Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. In 2005, SM Austria had 100
employees and total sales of Euro 11.3 million.
¶4. SM has frequently appeared in the Austrian press under negative
headlines. In April 2003, Austrian press reported that U.S.
soldiers found SM rifles in the arms arsenal of Saddam Hussein’s son
Udai in Bagdhad. Following the delivery of approximately 800
long-range, high precision sniper rifles (model Steyr HS.50 with a
range of 1,500 meters and a 12.7 x 99 millimeter caliber) to Iran
in 2004, the USG imposed nonproliferation sanctions against SM in
Steyr Spezialfahrzeuge (SSF)
¶5. In 1987, SDP outsourced production of busses, tanks and armored
vehicles to its Steyr Spezialfahrzeuge (SSF) subsidiary. In 1999, a
consortium including SSF CEO Hans Michael Malzacher and General
Dynamics (25% share) purchased SSF from Canada’s Magna
International, which had held a 66% share in SSF since 1998.
General Dynamics assumed a 100% stake in SSF in 2003. In 2005, SSF
had 350 employees and annual sales of Euro 170 million. Since 2005,
SSF has signed several major export contracts, including orders from
the Portugese Army (Euro 365 million) and the Czech Defense Ministry
(Euro 821 million for 200 Pandur armored vehicles
¶6. SSF has also been the target of negative media coverage
regarding certain sales of military equipment. In 2001, SSF
delivered military vehicles to an elite unit of Zimbabwean President
Robert Mugabe, as well as tanks to Botswana, which allegedly
financed the deal with funds earmarked for development assistance.
In 2002, SSF purchased the insolvent Steyr Nigeria, originally an
SDP agricultural equipment subsidiary, from the Nigerian
Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik (MSF)
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¶7. Since the sale of its bicycle and motorcycle production to
Italy’s Piaggio in 1987, Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik (SFT) has
concentrated on the development and production of all-terrain
vehicles for civil and military uses. In 1990, SFT and Chrysler
started “Eurostar,” a 50/50 joint venture to assemble Chrysler
Voyager minivans and Jeep Cherokees in Austria In 1998, Canadian
car components manufacturer Magna International obtained a majority
share in SFT through its Austrian subsidiary, Magna Steyr. Chrysler
subsequently exercised an option in 1999 to buy out Magna’s shares
in Eurostar to obtain 100% ownership. In 2002, Chrysler sold its
100% share in Eurostar, which assembles for BMW, Chrysler, Mercedes
and Saab, back to Magna Steyr. Magna Steyr then reorganized SFT and
Eurostar under the name, Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik (MSF). MSF is
the largest automobile company in Austria, with total sales of Euro
3.9 billion in 2005 and 7,500 employees.
¶8. In 1999, the German ZF Group, a supplier of automotive axles and
off-road technology, took over Steyr Antriebstechnik, a producer of
agricultural gears. The company produces in Austria under the name
ZF Steyr with 360 employees and annual sales of Euro 110 million.