September 29, 2010

Sarkozy eyes defence deals in Dec. India visit

(Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit India in December, officials said on Tuesday, with an eye on increasing French firms' share of the country's 10-year $50-billion defence spending.
Indian Foreign Ministry officials said the visit will take place tentatively on Dec. 6-7, but the dates are to be confirmed.
French daily newspaper La Tribune reported the state visit, initially planned for spring, will take place from Dec. 4-7.
Sarkozy will plead the case for French defence firms to India, which at present prefers weapons from Russian, Israeli and U.S. contractors, the daily said, citing anonymous sources.
French ties with India hit a snag over commercial disputes and what India felt was a snub after a lightning visit by Sarkozy in 2008, the paper said.
While Russian, U.S. and Israeli firms have won contracts topping a billion dollars annually, France had just one major contract in 2005 to supply submarines worth $2.5 billion.
The one (contract) that is advanced enough to be signed during the visit is the modernisation of 51 Mirage 2000-H for 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion), the paper said.
The contract could reassure Thales (TCFP.PA) and Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA), who are awaiting a decision from Brazil on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
India is set to decide on an $11-billion deal for 126 fighter jets where Dassault's Rafale is back as a contender after it was initially knocked out of the race for technical reasons last year.
Sarkozy's visit could also lead to the finalisation of a contract with nuclear group Areva (CEPFi.PA), which 18 months ago signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of two reactors at Jaitapur in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

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