President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced Tuesday she will send Congress a bill to re-nationalize the Military Aircraft Manufacturing Centre, a defence contractor currently controlled by US Lockheed Martin Corp.
“Nationalization of Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina SA would boost industrial production by returning aeronautical technology development and production to the state”, said Mrs. Kirchner.
“The decision adds to other recent ones for the recovery of our flag air carrier (Aerolineas Argentinas) and means putting value into something which had been dismantled” since the nineties, said the Argentine president.
The aircraft maintenance facility is close to the city of Cordoba, employs 1.100 people and was privatized during the time of former president Carlos Menem (1989/99). It was part of a deal to refurbish Skyhawk A4 combat fighters supplied by the US government to Argentina, mainly to replace those lost during the 1982 Falklands conflict.
Tuesday’s announcement was expected due to preliminary contractual negotiations since mid 2007, in the framework of an Argentine defence strategy to associate the former military aircraft manufacturing plant to Brazil’s Embraer and Chile’s Enaer.
Argentina’s office of the National Auditor General will set the price for the company if Congress approves the nationalization, the Defence Ministry said in a news release in Buenos Aires. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has a numerical (not necessarily political) majority in both houses.
The government is likely to pay the equivalent of 27 million US dollars for the company, the Ministry said, adding that the 1,100 employees will maintain their jobs if the takeover is approved.
Lockheed has a contract to deliver twelve training aircrafts identified as Pampa AT-63 and is also responsible for the maintenance of the Aerolineas Argentinas and its subsidiary Austral fleets.
We have an open dialogue with the Ministry of Defence and will work together to carry out any required decisions to exercise the contractual obligations related to the transition, Lockheed spokesman Rob Gross wrote to a news agency in an e-mail. However no details were advanced about the possible sale price of the company because of ongoing negotiations.
Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland, has operated the former Argentine Military Aircraft Factory since 1994.