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Eurofighter to bid in new South Korea fighter contest: EADS

09/26/2013 | Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) - Europe's Eurofighter will bid again to sell fighter jets to South Korea after the country's government cancelled a contest that U.S. rival Boeing (BA.N) was poised to win, the head of European aerospace group EADS (EAD.PA) said on Thursday.

Seoul rejected Boeing's (BA.N) bid to supply 60 warplanes on Tuesday, saying it would restart the multi-billion-dollar process to get a more advanced, radar-evading fighter.

Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle, the only bid within budget, had been poised to win the $7.7 billion tender after competing with Lockheed Martin's (LMT.N) F-35A and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Lockheed's F-35 is now widely seen as the front-runner, but Enders said Eurofighter would fight to stay in the race.

"We know it is very difficult to score in Korea against our strong U.S. competitors, but (we) never ever give up," EADS Chief Executive Tom Enders told Reuters.

"It is worth a try because we have a very good product now, much more mature than about 10 years ago, and when you compare us with the competitors the F-15 is much older and the F-35 is not - to put it mildly - really operational," he said.

EADS has been leading the bidding in South Korea on behalf of fellow Eurofighter consortium members BAE Systems (BAES.L) of the UK and Italy's Finmeccanica.

Enders denied reports that Eurofighter's earlier bid had not complied with the rules of the South Korean tender.

"We do think it was compliant and I think we have successfully corrected the picture that some people may have had," Enders said.

Eurofighter's Typhoon was ruled out for going over the South Korean finance ministry's budget. Under South Korean law, only bids under budget are eligible to win defence contracts.

Asked after giving a speech on transatlantic security whether Eurofighter would re-compete in a new tender, Enders said, "Yes absolutely. The fact that Boeing was rejected is not bad news for us."

The South Korean government and air force are expected to draw up a fresh tender process and consider a new budget, possibly reducing the number of planes sought to 40 or 50.

The defence ministry said on Tuesday it could take around one year to complete the new tender round.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by David Evans)

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