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Saab Won’t Abandon Indian Gripen Effort, Has Patience in Brazil

Saab AB Chief Executive Officer Hakan Buskhe
Saab AB Chief Executive Officer Hakan Buskhe speaks during a news conference at the Paris Air Show in Paris. Photographer: Fabrice Dimier/Bloomberg

Saab AB, the Swedish maker of defense equipment, said it hasn’t abandoned efforts to sell its Gripen fighter jet to India, even after the model was removed from a competition that also ejected two U.S. contenders.

“We are monitoring the situation, and we have not packed up our things and left,” Haakan Buskhe, chief executive officer at the Linkoeping-based company, told journalists at the Paris Air Show today. “We have an extremely good aircraft and we have not given up.”

India is Saab’s biggest target for the Gripen besides Brazil. The aircraft was eliminated in April from the six-way contest to replace its aging fleet of MiG-21s, along with Boeing Co.’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-16. Lockheed may seek to claw its way back into the contest by offering its latest warplane, the F-35 stealth fighter.

Brazil will probably pick a winner in a contest worth at least $5 billion later this year. Saab is competing with the Super Hornet and France’s Rafale, made by Dassault Aviation SA, for a 36-aircraft order.

The contest is more complex than in India, which is seeking an “off-the-shelf” aircraft, Buskhe said, as Saab would be willing to transfer technology to Brazil as part of winning bid.

“We have the cash to wait another 10 years,” Buskhe said of the Brazilian tender. Saab has net liquidity of about 4 billion kronor ($626 million), according to the company.

Buskhe said his company stands to benefit from government cuts to defense spending because they force armies to review the equipment and contracts they have, opening an avenue for companies such as Saab to establish new orders.

“It may sound strange, but the defense cuts are beneficial to us,” Buskhe said at the press briefing. “When money is not an issue, you don’t change habits.”

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