Westland in UAE price war

A last-minute price war has broken out at a Middle East arms bazaar where Westland Helicopters is vying with the world's largest manufacturers to secure a massive order.

The United Arab Emirates is expected to indicate during the next few days the preferred bidder for an order for up to 12 military helicopters.

Companies and defence experts are gathered in Abu Dhabi, where perhaps the most important military exhibition for the last couple of years is taking place.

Competition for the UAE order, said to be worth between £200m and £250m, is fierce and reports suggest that Westland and France's Eurocopter are among those companies to drop their price.

Reuters said diplomats and Western military experts said both companies had presented last-minute lower offers. "Westland put in a bid as low as $250m (£166m)," one diplomat said, according to Reuters. Westland officials at the exhibition, called Idex 95, refused to comment.

William Perry, the US Defense Secretary, visited Idex yesterday to support American bidders. Defence experts believe that the two main contenders are the Seahawk, made by Sikorsky in the US, and the Panther made by Eurocopter, a division of Aerospatiale.

Westland, a subsidiary of GKN, is offering its Super Lynx helicopter, which also has an anti-submarine warfare role. The company promotes Lynx as the world's most popular naval helicopter, with 370 in service with 11 navies. A Westland spokesman said it would be an important order for the company to win. "There are no Lynx operated by Gulf countries. If one country bought it, others would sit up an take notice.''

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