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Gio. Ansaldo & C.

Ansaldo was one of Italy's oldest and most important engineering companies, existing for 140 years from 1853 to 1993. It was founded in 1853 as Gio. Ansaldo & C. S.A.S. by renowned players in the Genoese business world, such as Giovanni Ansaldo, Raffaele Rubattino, Giacomo Filippo Penco and Carlo Bombrini. Until the end of the 19th century, the company focused on manufacturing and repairing railway components, quickly becoming a 10,000-worker company with seven factories, and starting to expand into sectors such as shipbuilding and mechanical works in general. In 1904, Ansaldo was bought by Ferdinando Maria Perrone who, along with his sons Mario and Pio, bound the name of the Perrone family to the history of the company. Over the next twenty years, he aimed at making Ansaldo fully independent both in the ironworks and weapon-making areas, thanks to strong vertical integration and to World War I.

In 1914 the company was worth 30 million lire, reaching 500 million in 1918. When the company issued shares in the summer of 1918 worth 400 million lire Ansaldo employed 80,000 workers, had dozens of factories and controlled companies such as A. Cerpelli & C., Banca industriale Italiana, Cantieri Officine Savoia, Dynamit Nobel, Gio.Fossati & C., Lloyd Italico, Nazionale di Navigazione, Pomilio, Società Idroelettrica Negri, and Transatlantica Italiana.

Aeronautica Ansaldo SA was established late in the First World War by engineering and shipbuilding firm of Gio. Ansaldo). After the war a separate company was formed, Societa Aninima Aeronautica, Turin, though title was variously rendered. Ansaldo achieved aeronautical eminence in 1917 by providing a single-seat fighter of original Italian design (Italy having previously used French types). The aircraft was A-1 Balilla. About 150 were built; others were license-built in Poland, and served well into 1920s. The S.V.A.5 was also a fighter, though more notable for fast reconnaissance flights and record-breaking, which had Warrentruss wing bracing, later a characteristic of Fiat biplanes. Before Ansaldo merged completely with Fiat, in 1925, the company built the A.300 two/three-seat multipurpose biplane, extensively produced and used. Hydrofoils fitted to a seaplane development of S.V.A.5 presaged later developments in UK and USA. The initials S.V. signified Savoia Verducci. Ansaldo/Fiat links were implicit in name Rosatelli. Pomilio name also linked by 1918 takeover.

Following a financial crisis with its largest creditor, Banca Italiana di Sconto, and problems in reconverting factories after the end of World War I, the Perrone family abandoned the company in 1921, and the Banca d'Italia led a consortium to save it from bankruptcy. Company strategies were drastically sized down, and during the 1920s, even though electro-mechanical productions grew significantly, Ansaldo found itself in such dire difficulties that it finally entered the control of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI), under which the company found new life and growth, partly thanks to the new war effort during fascism. The main figure in this rebirth, the engineer Agostino Rocca, reconfigured the structure and organisation of the company during his tenure as chief executive officer from 1935 to the end of World War II. War contracts indeed led to a significant growth: Ansaldo had 22,000 employees in 1939, and 35,000 in 1943.

After the end of World War II, conversion to peacetime production again caused problems to the company. In 1948, IRI entrusted the company to Finmeccanica, which operated several reorganisation measures during the 1950s and 1960s, such as the relinquishing of all shipbuilding activities to Italcantieri of Trieste in 1966. From that year, Finmeccanica further englobed Ansaldo within its activities, and in 1980 they formed Italy's largest thermo-electric group. In 1993, Ansaldo ceased to exist as an independent entity, having been completely absorbed by Finmeccanica.


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