Chris Jasper/LONDON

Dubai-based investment group HSPD is to take a 15% stake in UK utility aircraft specialist Britten-Norman with the aim of marketing its products in the Middle East. One type that could be offered is a factory-built version of Europa's XS kit aircraft. UK-based Europa is understood to be negotiating a deal which would see Britten-Norman manufacture the two-seater under licence.

HSPD will not price its stake, but says investment in Bembridge, Isle of Wight-based Britten-Norman over the next five years could see it inject up to $15 million. Britten-Norman and HSPD will establish a 50:50 marketing joint venture, Britten-Norman Middle East, to be based in Dubai.

HSPD vice-president Hossam Elshazly says the Britten-Norman deal was sealed after nearly a year of talks. Discussions initially centred on investment with a view to developing product lines, but broadened into marketing after an assessment of Middle East sales potential. The move is a departure for HSPD, which acts as a conduit for investors throughout the Gulf, mainly in pharmaceuticals.

Britten-Norman Middle East, due to be launched this month, will market aircraft, maintenance and spares. It is likely to establish satellite offices in Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Britten-Norman's Islander, Trislander and Defender 4000 lines will be offered. Elshazly says a Britten-Norman and Europa deal should allow a Bembridge-built version of the XS to be added.

"The Middle East is virgin territory for Britten-Norman, but we see a market for cargo and military versions of products and a big market for the Europa," says Elshazly. He says a small parts manufacturing capability could be established in Dubai or Egypt.

Yorkshire-based Europa, one of the world's leading kit aircraft builders, aims to certify a derivation of the single-engined XS by the end of the year. It says it is talking to "a few parties" about possible manufacture and assembly.

Source: Flight International