Leonardo remains confident it can finalise a contract with Qatar for 28 NHIndustries NH90 helicopters before year-end.

Although the Middle Eastern country moved in March this year to formalise a long-held tentative agreement for the military rotorcraft, the deal has yet to be signed off.

Leonardo Helicopters, which is part of the three-way NHI consortium, along with Airbus Helicopters and Fokker, is the prime contractor for the Qatar contract.

Speaking on an 8 May first-quarter results call, Leonardo chief financial officer Alessandra Genco said: "We still believe the contract will become effective before year-end."

Qatar intends to take 12 NH90 NFH navy helicopters, and 16 TTH troop transports under a €3 billion ($3.55 billion) commitment. Deliveries are due to begin in 2022.

Genco says Leonardo is seeing a recovery in its helicopter business, which performed below expectations in 2017, largely driven by industrial issues.

She indicates that there was "good strong market interest" for the intermediate-twin AW139, as well as similar levels of interest from "offshore operators" for the AW189.

Helicopter deliveries in 2018 are expected to outstrip the 145 units handed over last year, says Genco.

Chief executive Alessandro Profumo says he sees "clear positive signs and good progress of the recovery" in the helicopter business.

Orders rose by 33% year on year to 35 units, from 21 in the same period a year earlier.

Source: FlightGlobal.com