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Italy sells helicopters to Turkmenistan

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Rome (UPI) Nov 5, 2010
Italy's leading defense group Finmeccanica announced that it sold a batch of new helicopters to the government of Turkmenistan.

The sale includes the company's latest models of AgustaWestland AW101 and AW139 helicopters. The deal announcement came in the wake of another order the Italian defense giant had appeared to be concluding: the sale of M-346 jet trainers to the United Arab Emirates.

Defense News cited remarks by Finmeccanica Chief Financial Officer Alessandro Pansa that the deal could be finalized by 2011.

"Wrapping up negotiations could take months and 2011 will be a crucial year for inking the contract," he said.

Italy's defense giant has been getting a toehold in far-flung foreign markets because of the roving, hands-on diplomacy of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In recent months alone, Finmeccanica has sealed deals in Libya, Kazakhstan and Belarus on the heels of recent Italian diplomatic initiatives in those countries.

Even during a recent visit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to team with on security technology work between the Italian company and a Russia state firm.

This week Pansa told defense analysts that Finmeccanica would book new orders worth more than $10 billion before the end of the year -- this on top of more than $15 billion in orders already secured this year.

Despite the deal, the firm's profits for the first nine months of 2010 stood at $453 million, down from $513 million in the same period in 2009.

It wasn't immediately clear what the price tag of the Turkmenistan order was for two AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters and five AW139s.

In addition to the helicopter deal, Italy also signed a deal with the Kazakh government covering railways and Finmeccanica electro-optical systems required to upgrade T-72 tanks for the Kazakh armed forces. The tanks are being considered for re-export.

The deal with Russian Technologies State Corp. envisages forming a joint venture for complex security systems production. Both firms have discussed pooling resources to provide security for transportation hubs, oil depots, gas pipelines, large convention and sporting events, Finmeccanica has said in statements.

Discussions are also in force to team up on security systems for terrorism response.

"Finmeccanica has been well backed by Italian diplomacy recently," said a source close to the company.

The increasing international presence of the firm in recent years has reflected this support.

"Ten to 15 years ago, Italian diplomats were more cautious in promoting Italian business, but that has changed," said a Rome political analyst who declined to be named.

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