Arabs again test whether their dollars are any good in U.S.

Section:

Dubai Aerospace in Talks
to Buy US Defence Assets

By Lina Saigol and Stephanie Kirchgaessner
Financial Times, London
Monday, March 19, 2007

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/bb4d7ef4-d64d-11db-99b7-000b5df10621.html

Dubai's ruling family is set to acquire a series of aerospace and defence businesses across the US which will test the country's readiness to entertain Arab owners of infrastructure assets in a deal which could be valued at more than $1.5 billion.

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, which aims to create a $15 billion aerospace and aviation services company, is in advanced talks with Carlyle, the private equity firm, about acquiring part of Landmark Aviation and Standard Aero, which both provide engine repair and overhaul aviation services.

DAE, which is chaired by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of the Emirates airline group and president of the Dubai department of civil aviation, is interested in buying only Landmark's maintenance, repair, and overhaul services business.

In September 2006, DAE teamed up with Abu Dhabi to acquire Zurich-based SR Technics, the world's leading independent provider of aircraft MRO services for around $1,334 million.

The potential deal is likely to face tough scrutiny in Washington, where a bid for the takeover of five US port terminals by another state-owned company, Dubai Ports World, was scuppered following a congressional backlash last year.

Chuck Schumer, the New York Democratic senator, who led the opposition to the Dubai Ports deal and earlier this year reiterated his criticism that the emirate had been at the "nexus" of terror finance, told the FT: "This purchase is not as much of a security risk as Dubai Ports World, but because it deals with maintenance of aircraft, it certainly raises security questions."

Sen Schumer said if a thorough review of the deal was done by the committee on foreign investment, or Cfius, which vets foreign deals on national security grounds, "and necessary safeguards are taken, the deal is unlikely to have problems in Congress."

DAE and Carlyle are expected to request a full 90-day review by Cfius, which is controlled by the Bush administration.

Both parties to the potential deal are expected to show the US government that they are willing to agree to tough conditions to win approval, including a so-called "evergreen" clause, which would allow the government to unravel the transaction at any time in the future if the companies fail to comply with an agreed security arrangement.

Although the transaction does not involve the transfer of any classified defence information, any probe is likely to take into consideration lingering questions within some quarters of the Bush administration about the transfer of materials from the UAE to Iran.

The Dubai Ports World debacle last year exposed mixed feelings about the UAE -- specifically Dubai -- which is seen as an ally in the US war on terror.

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