The Finmeccanica group was officially founded in 1948. However, its roots can be traced back evenfurther than the 150 years of Italian unity. Ansaldo – which has been one of the principal companies in the group since its foundation – was, in fact, born in Genoa in 1853 and actively participated in the formation and growth of united Italy starting from the Risorgimento (the 19th-century unification movement).
In 1948, however, IRI (Institute for Industrial Reconstruction) founded the “SocietàFinanziariaMeccanica – Finmeccanica” as a new holding company in the mechanics sector. The chief components, aside from Ansaldo, were Alfa Romeo, Salmoiraghi, other aeronautical, automotive, and motorcycle companies, manufacturers of industrial and agricultural machinery, and, above all, electronics development companies for defense. Thus, Finmeccanica became one of the principal motors of the “economic miracle” of which Italy was a protagonist throughout the 1960s, entering into the collective imagination with the production of the “Giulietta” by Alfa Romeo (later ceded to Fiat in 1986).
The economic crisis in the 1970s initiated a new phase for Finmeccanica. The group claimed its own autonomous space within state interests, re-launching its development through a system of industrial alliances and large-scale projects involving international cooperation. In 1980, the restructuring of Ansaldo and the diversification of AnsaldoTrasporti and AnsaldoSistemiIndustriali began. Ten years later, the aeronautical company Alenia was born and, in 1991, AnsaldoEnergia. At the beginning of the 1990s, with the privatization of public industry, Finmeccanica was quoted on the Stock Exchange, though it remained under public control; in fact, the principal shareholder is the Ministry of Economy, with a share of about 32 percent. Finmeccanica’s expansion has continued in the new millennium, focusing primarily on three strategic sectors: helicopters, electronics for defense and security, aeronautics and aerospace. After the total acquisition of Agusta Westland and AMS, Finmeccanica became the third-largest European company in sales volume in the defense sector.
Today, Finmeccanica is still the largest Italian group in the high-tech sector, with 70,000 employees and an important presence in the United Kingdom and the United States.