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LABACE: AgustaWestland revives Brazil manufacturing plan

Four months after a critical setback, AgustaWestland has revived plans to build helicopters in Brazil and is in discussions with multiple local companies.

AgustaWestland chief executive Daniele Romiti confirms the company remains open to restarting talks with Embraer over local manufacture of the AW189 and AW169 for the Brazilian market.

"We are open to accept any proposal that may come, considering that we are pretty sure that the new products we have in mind, such as the AW189 and the AW169, that are coming soon are pretty good for the needs of the Brazilian market," Romiti says.

It was Embraer who broke off negotiations with AgustaWestland in April over forming such a joint venture, Romiti says, amid a developing acquisition scandal in India that led to the arrest of former Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland executives in Italy.

Embraer never explained its reasons for abandoning the discussions, Romiti says, but he speculates that the company was busy at the time with its commercial regional jet business.

AgustaWestland, meanwhile, continues to regard the Brazilian market with great interest. An oil and gas boom is expected to drive state-owned oil firm Petrobras to double its fleet of helicopters to over 200 within the next six years. The Brazilian navy also has requirements to buy training and light utility helicopters, while national and state police agencies need more helicopters to deal with the security demands of the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Domestic sourcing is a key criterion for winning orders in Brazil. Petrobras is being required by the government to commit to buying ever-increasing levels of hardware from local companies. The government has also passed a law providing special tax incentives to defence contractors with at least 60% of shares owned by Brazilians.

AgustaWestland aims to establish a joint venture that meets both the commercial and military preferences for domestic sourcing, Romiti says.

Unveiling a new AgustaWestland service centre in Brazil, Romiti adds that the site can be expanded to accommodate a final assembly line should the joint venture be established.

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