Abu Dhabi groups UAE defense firms under one roof to cut costs

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi plans to group more than 25 state-owned and private entities in the UAE defense sector, with combined annual revenues of $5 billion, into a single defense company.

The United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is the oil-wealthy capital, is one of the top buyers of Western arms and defense systems, mostly from its key ally the United States, and to a lesser extent from Russia and China.

In a further consolidation after a 2014 merger of state-run defense firms, Abu Dhabi said on Tuesday it was forming EDGE to invest in technology, including artificial intelligence, as well as research and development.

“Established with a core mandate to disrupt an antiquated military industry generally stifled by red tape, EDGE is set to bring products to market faster and at more cost-effective price points,” EDGE CEO Faisal Al Bannai said in a statement.

The firm, launched at a ceremony attended by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, said its core businesses include missiles and weapons, cyber defense, and electronic warfare and intelligence.

Bannai is the founder of UAE-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter, which said last month that he planned to sell his stake in the firm by the end of the year. DarkMatter will not be integrated into EDGE, Bannai told reporters.

EDGE said that Bannai was hired as CEO because of his background in start-ups and “proven track record in leveraging emerging technologies at home and abroad”.

Reporting Stanley Carvalho, Writing by Sylvia Westall, Editing by Alexander Smith