Sources in the Middle East said the contract for up to eight patrol craft had gone to one of Vosper's main competitors in France.
Kuwait has signed the deal with the French government, which is expected to subcontract the work to Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie, the Cherbourg-based company bidding to buy the Swan Hunter shipyard on Tyneside. CMN is also believed to have won a pounds 33m contract to build a 57-metre missile attack craft for Kuwait.
The contract for the 42-metre patrol boats is part of Kuwait's plan to rebuild its navy following the Gulf war. The UK Ministry of Defence helped Vosper lobby for the business. German shipyards also bid for the work, though the French tender is said to have been the cheapest.
An announcement from the French government was said to be imminent. The loss of the business is not a serious blow for Vosper because it has a solid order book of more than pounds 500m to build 14 ships.
Even so, Vosper's yards on the Solent are not operating to capacity and management will be disappointed to have lost such a big order after months of lobbying.
Last month Vosper won an order from the MoD for seven Sandown class minehunters. The pounds 250m order will secure about 450 jobs for four years.
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