Britain's Cameron to visit Gulf as UAE ponders $9 billion Eurofighter deal

LONDON Thu Nov 14, 2013 1:48pm EST

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet at the Guildhall in the City of London November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet at the Guildhall in the City of London November 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Neil Hall

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LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron will urge Gulf Arab countries to buy the Eurofighter jet system when he visits this week, sources said, as BAE Systems hopes to clinch a $9 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE, which is preparing to host the Dubai Airshow, is choosing between the Eurofighter and France's Dassault Systems Rafale aircraft for an order of at least 60 jets.

The Gulf state had been expected to finalize an agreement for the Rafale last year, but talks faltered following visits by Cameron and after the UAE said the terms were unworkable and uncompetitive.

Industry sources familiar with the Eurofighter said they were hopeful for a step towards the 6 billion pound ($9.6 billion) deal at the air show, such as the signing of a memorandum of understanding or contract.

"It's still pending but Cameron's pushing like hell for it," an industry source, who declined to be identified, said.

Britain's refusal to get involved in military action in Syria in September stirred concerns that it could weaken its business ties in the Gulf.

The Eurofighter, which is built by BAE, EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica, is being marketed in the Gulf region by BAE, which is finalizing and chasing deals in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.

UBS analysts said in September that should the UAE pick the Eurofighter for the deal, which it valued at 6 billion pounds for the aircraft alone, India might also reconsider buying the jets. India picked the Rafale over the Eurofighter for exclusive negotiations in January 2012.

BAE's Chief Executive Ian King said in August that if the company clinched the UAE and a further Saudi order, its production line in could stretch out by four years to 2022 at a rate of 30 planes a year.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Robin Pomeroy)

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