UK Exports Rise 70% in 2009
By ANDREW CHUTER, FARNBOROUGH, UK – In opposition, Britain’s new Conservative-led government was all for returning the state’s defense and security export organization to the control of the Ministry of Defence. Now you hear little of any plan to pull it out of the business ministry and put it back in the MoD, from where it was unceremoniously removed in 2008 by the then-Labour-Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The change of heart might have something to do with the Defence & Security Organisation’s recent announcement of another stellar performance for 2009.
That’s maybe just as well. Defence secretary Liam Fox has put an export push in the first rank of the priorities for the new government.
DSO boss Richard Paniguian told reporters here today that defense export sales had risen by 70 percent to 7.2 billion pounds billion ($11 billion), while the security industry had recorded a 14 percent growth to 1.4 billion pounds.
Figures for 2010 also looked promising he said.
DSO’s head of research, David Steel, said they had been surprised how well defense exports had held up in the recession.
Beyond this year, he was more cautious about prospects, referring to the market as “resilient.”
The DSO is more bullish about the security sector, anticipating double-digit growth, Paniguian said.
The jump in export sales in the defense sector had primarily been fueled by business in Saudi Arabia and the United States. The two nations are consistently Britain’s two largest customers, with India in third place.
DSO officials pointed to sales of communications equipment by Cobham and BAE Systems M777 howitzers to the United States as among the reasons for the spike in export activity. The continuing high level of sales to the Saudis are thought to include a major weapons purchase by the Saudi Air Force.
British sales to India are expected to get a boost next week with prime minister David Cameron set to announce a sale of 57 BAE Systems Hawk jet trainers during a visit next week.
Paniguian declined to comment on the possible sale. The Indians are a big customer for the Hawk, having already ordered 66 aircraft.
The British performance for 2009 was consistent with the country’s historical position of achieving around a 20 percent share of the world defense export markets.
But Paniguian said market conditions in the coming year were going to be tough.
“In order for us to achieve our ambitions somebody else will have to surrender some of their market,” he said.