Westland ends 15-year row

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The Independent Online
A 15-YEAR legal dispute between GKN's Westland Helicopters subsidiary and the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation has been settled, writes Russell Hotten.

The British group has decided to accept pounds 190m of a pounds 385m award against the AOI, formed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, to remain in their good books.

Westland has not carried out work for the AOI countries since the dispute started, and GKN felt it would not win further orders until the matter was settled.

'The most important element is that now we are open for business in markets in a way we weren't previously,' said Nick de Jongh, GKN director of public affairs. 'We believe the settlement is in the best interests of all parties and it brings nearly 15 years of strongly contested litigation to a successful end.'

GKN yesterday accepted a final pounds 50m payment from the AOI. About pounds 25m was handed over last December and pounds 115m in June.

The AOI, set up in 1975, formed a joint company with Westland called Arab British Helicopter to manufacture a minimum of 250 Lynx helicopters. The project broke up in 1979 as a result of Egypt's peace treaty with Israel and led to Westland suing for breach of contract.

The Geneva-based arbitration tribunal Arbitral awarded Westland pounds 385m in June last year but this was strongly contested by the AOI states, prompting further legal action.

When GKN took over Westland in March it offered shareholders 335p a share, or 290p plus a dividend from any money received from the AOI dispute. The 150 investors who took the AOI alternative are about 15p a share ahead.

Westland is also to keep payment of pounds 30m made by the AOI as advances in 1978 to cover costs incurred up to the time of the tribunal decision last year. GKN said the settlement meant that pounds 200m of damages awarded against Westland by an Egyptian court were now wiped off the slate.