Britain was told it must buy more Leonardo SpA helicopters and help fund an export drive to safeguard a factory that rose to global prominence in the 1980s when a tussle over its future almost toppled Margaret Thatcher.
With sales of rotor-craft in the doldrums following a slump in demand from the offshore oil industry, Rome-based Leonardo, owner of the former Westland plant in Yeovil, southwest England, needs British financial backing to ensure production, Chief Executive Officer Alessandro Profumo said in an interview.
“I think it’s very important to understand what the U.K. government will do in terms of procurement on one side and export support on the other,” Profumo, who took over at Leonardo last May, said at Bloomberg’s London offices. “It’s difficult to give a guarantee if the products don’t have demand.”
The Yeovil factory, which employs about 3,000 people and is Britain’s sole helicopter producer, currently assembles the AW101 Merlin naval transport and the AW159 Wildcat anti-submarine model. While the former has significant orders, that backlog must be maintained, and the Wildcat needs further U.K. purchases or a sustained export effort, Profumo said. (end of excerpt)
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