PRAGUE Dec 3 Sweden has agreed with the Czech Republic to lower the price on an extended lease of Gripen fighter jets after threats to find another aircraft, daily newspaper Lidove Noviny said on Monday, citing the Czech defence minister.
The Czechs' existing contract expires in 2014 for the lease of 14 Gripens made by Saab and the country is under pressure to find a cheap replacement or an extension, as the army budget shrinks.
"The current offer is much more advantageous than the original one," the paper quoted Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra as saying. "The price was reduced by roughly one billion (crowns)," Vondra told the daily.
The daily said this would mean the new price for a 10-year extension of the lease is 14 billion crowns ($721 million), after the Swedes first offered the deal for 15 billion.
The NATO member's Prime Minister Petr Necas was pressuring Sweden in July, threatening the Czechs would prepare a tendering competition to pick a different supplier unless Sweden improves its offer by November.
Vondra should unveil details of the offer at a National Security Council meeting later on Monday. A Defence Ministry spokesman said he would not comment on the issue until it is discussed at the council.
The Czechs leased the Gripens in 2004 for 10 years and about 19.6 billion crowns. The government is seeking to extend the lease by several years pending a decision on the long-term future of its air force. ($1=19.4260 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Jana Mlcochova; Editing by Greg Mahlich)