Israel Aerospace eyes 25% share sale and more UAE deals

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The logo of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the country's biggest defence contractor, is seen at their offices next to Ben Gurion International airport, near Or Yehuda, Israel February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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JERUSALEM, Nov 24 (Reuters) - State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) (ISRAI.UL) is likely to sell 25% of the company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in the first half of 2022, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

Israel's privatisation panel gave approval last year for IAI to sell up to 49% of its shares in an initial public offering.

"We're aiming right now for 25%. It will be a first step," Boaz Levy told Reuters after IAI reported a slight rise in third-quarter profit. "It will be somewhere in the first half of next year."

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The share offering still needs final government approval, he added.

IAI, one of Israel's largest defence companies, earned net profit of $31 million in the three months to Sept. 30, compared with $30 million a year earlier. Sales rose to $1.04 billion from $1.01 billion, boosted by its Systems Missiles & Space and the Military Aircraft divisions.

Sales for export over the first nine months of the year accounted for 73% of total sales.

Defence budgets are rising, Levy said.

"We see many conflicts around the world and many changes that require a new approach and new capabilities ... We are trying to be a part of that," he said.

IAI last week opened a new office in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and has already signed a $100 million contract to convert Boeing 777-300ER passenger jets to cargo planes, which Levy said was "just the beginning".

He said an office in the UAE was necessary to continue to bid for contracts and that IAI is also starting work on joint development of an advanced drone defence system with the UAE's state-owned weapons maker EDGE.

The deals follow normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE last year, as well as with Bahrain and Morocco.

As part of the so-called Abraham Accords, the Israeli and Moroccan defence ministers on Wednesday signed defence memorandums of understanding.

Levy said he expects IAI to make further inroads in the UAE and the Gulf with its products in space, air, land and sea.

"We are just opening a channel and the Abraham Accords are really a game changer in our arena," he said.

(This story corrects to add dropped word in the ninth paragraph)

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Reporting by Steven Scheer Editing by Louise Heavens and David Goodman

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