Aerospatiale Matra has claimed rights to a stake in Shorts Missile Systems (SMS) of the UK. The bid, made in a letter to SMS owner Thomson-CSF, stems from 1993 talks which saw the French defence electronics giant and Canada's Bombardier each take a 50% stake in SMS. Thomson has rejected the claim.

Aerospatiale Matra insists that the 1993 agreement allows it to take a stake of up to 49% in Belfast-based SMS, now fully owned by Thomson after a recent buy-out agreement with Bombardier. Thomson agrees that negotiations took place, but says they did not confer rights to equity.

Aerospatiale Matra, through subsidiary Matra BAe Dynamics (MBD), manufactures the Mistral very-short-range air-defence missile, which competes with the Shorts Starstreak, while Thomson's Crotale and MBD's Rapier target the short-range surface-to-air market.

Thomson, teamed with Raytheon, is also head to head with an MBD-led team in the battle to supply a beyond visual range air-to-air missile to the UK Royal Air Force.

• Aerospatiale Matra president Philippe Camus says its 1999 results will see sales rising by about 6% from 1998 to around €13 billion ($13.1 billion), with an orderbook of €37 billion, or three years' work. He adds that talks are continuing with Italy's Finmeccanica on the formation of a common aerospace subsidiary with European Aeronautic, Defense and Space, of which the French giant will be a part.

The venture would not involve Airbus Industrie.

Source: Flight International