By Ed Attwood
Defence giant seeking to build further sales in kingdom around landmark Typhoon contracts
BAE Systems is seeking to expand sales in the lucrative Saudi defence market by targeting land and sea contracts, as well as increased orders for its landmark Typhoon aircraft.
"The Saudis have always had an option to increase the number of Typhoons, so that's obviously the main one," Simon Keith, BAE Systems' Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific managing director, told Arabian Business in an interview during a defence event in Abu Dhabi.
"We also believe that there are other opportunities in both of the other services, so inland and at sea.
"With regard to sea, that has not been our natural area and tends to be as part of a relationship with the French and to an extent with the Americans, but we feel that they have got things they would be interested in, and certainly on land systems as well," he said.
In its annual results posted last week, the UK-based defence giant earmarked Saudi Arabia and Australia as key markets for growth, especially given the budget cuts currently under way in more traditional markets such as the UK and US.
Keith said that possible naval sales could include radar, fire control systems or communications systems, and also singled out cybersecurity solutions as a "huge growth area" for Gulf customers.
In the last six weeks, BAE Systems has acquired three firms that provide cybersecurity solutions to add to its worldwide portfolio.
Keith also said that Saudi Arabia had not yet confirmed whether final assembly of the last tranche of Typhoon aircraft would take place within the kingdom.
"We know that they are debating whether they would like us to build a few more, and then take it on, or whatever," he added. "But it's their debate, and we just stand ready to do what they want - we don't mind."
Saudi Arabia signed a deal to purchase 72 Typhoons in September 2007.