MILAN/LONDON AgustaWestland, the helicopter unit of Finmeccanica SIFI.MI, has won two contracts from Britain's Ministry of Defence worth a total of about 910 million euros ($1.24 billion), the Italian defence group said on Wednesday.
One contract concerns the conversion of 25 AW101 Merlin helicopters for maritime operations, Finmeccanica said in a statement. These will replace Britain's Sea King Mk 4 helicopters which will go out of service in 2016.
Under the second contract, AgustaWestland will provide support and maintenance services for the ministry's fleet of Apache AH Mk.1 attack helicopters for five years.
The announcement is a welcomed respite for the company, which warned earlier this month that it might cut jobs after India canceled a deal to buy 12 AW101 helicopters over what it termed a breach of integrity.
Britain's Ministry of Defence said the work would be carried out by AgustaWestland at its three sites at Yeovil, Suffolk and Hampshire, sustaining as many as 537 jobs.
It will also protect a further 500 jobs in the supply chain at British sites operated by GE Aviation (GE.N), General Dynamics (GD.N), Finmeccanica's Selex unit and APPH Aviation Services, a unit of aircraft services firm BBA Aviation (BBA.L).
"The UK defence industry makes an important contribution to the economy, generating revenue of over 22 billion pounds each year and its highly skilled workforce plays a crucial part in growing our economy," Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement.
"This investment will help secure British jobs, providing security to thousands of workers and their families." ($1 = 0.7319 euros) ($1 = 0.6030 British pounds)
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni, additional reporting by Brenda Goh, Editing by Valentina Za and Belinda Goldsmith)