Brazil is Saab's safety blanket as Swiss Gripen vote looms
By Bjorn Rundstrom
STOCKHOLM May 16 (Reuters) - Sweden's Saab faces a possible rejection by Swiss voters this weekend of a $2.8 billion purchase of its Gripen but while a setback in terms of revenues, the deal will have assured the future for the fighter jet regardless of the outcome.
The deal is equal in value to roughly four fifths of turnover last year for Saab and a 'no'-vote could inject some uncertainty concerning the timing of a purchase of the latest generation of the fighter by Sweden.
All the same, inking the Swiss 2011 deal that may now be over-ruled in a referendum has already given the new version of the fighter a lease of life that was necessary for it to eke out a surprise win of a larger tender to supply planes to Brazil.
"Even if there is a loss in the referendum, Saab won the tender in an advanced Western European country and that was important," Jan Joel Andersson, Senior Research Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs said.
An opinion poll carried out two weeks ago showed 51 percent of Swiss voters opposed to the deal, worth 2.5 billion Swiss francs for Saab, while 44 percent backed it. The remaining 5 percent were undecided.
Supporters of a modernisation of the Swiss air force argue the country needs to protect its neutrality and say the deal will provide Swiss businesses with around 2.5 billion francs in off-set deals. But it is controversial because a deal requires cost cuts in other areas, such as education, opponents stress.
Saab's win of the Swiss tender paved the way for Sweden to commit to continued development of the figher and in turn made it easier for Saab to win in Brazil, Andersson said.
Sweden needed a partner in order to share development costs and Switzerland was highlighted as such in the Swedish parliament decision to buy 60 of the next generation Gripen jets. Since then, a house majority in Sweden has agreed to hike the number to 70 jets. Continuación...