20 de marzo de 2015 / 14:13 / en 3 años

UPDATE 2-Airbus faces deadlock over French helicopter development loan

(Adds comment by French official)

PARIS, March 20 (Reuters) - Talks between Airbus Group and the French government over the financing for a new helicopter have hit an impasse, raising questions about where thousands of assembly and supplier jobs will be located, two people familiar with the matter said.

Code-named X6, the project being looked at by the Airbus Helicopters division calls for a replacement for the twin-engined Super Puma, a workhorse of the offshore oil industry.

Airbus Group has been in negotiations for months with the French government for a development loan similar to those used by the company’s main planemaker division, and which could amount to several hundred million euros.

Such a system has been in place for previous helicopter developments including the just-unveiled X4, now known as the H160.

However, talks have got stuck over the mechanism for any financing amid French budgetary pressures, the people said.

“Things are at an impasse and Airbus has started talking about transferring the project to Germany,” said one of the people familiar with the discussions.

Another said if talks break down, locations to be considered could include “anywhere in the world where there is a strong desire for industrial offset” such as Spain, Poland or Mexico.

Airbus Helicopters Chief Executive Guillaume Faury told Reuters last year that Poland could become one of its core nations as it bids for defence work there.

Airbus Helicopters declined to comment on the funding talks.

A French finance ministry official denied the talks were deadlocked.

“Discussions are ongoing,” the official said. “Several options are on the table and the aim is to advance quickly in the interest of employment and helicopter activities in France.”

Although less prominent than state loans for airliner developments, a practice which has been challenged by the United States, any decision to shift the X6 project abroad is likely to ring political alarm bells.

In 2013 the French government told parliament it would “pay particular attention to the request for support”.

Centrist Senator Vincent Capo-Canellas said at the time that the Super Puma represented 2,500 jobs at what was then known as Eurocopter in France, as well 4,000 jobs at its suppliers. (Reporting by Tim Hepher, Ingrid Melander; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Pravin Char)

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