Argentina Moves to Re-nationalize Lockheed Aircraft Factory

If the bill is approved by congress, Argentina will pay out $64 million for a company that has annual revenues of $50 million.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner announced on March 17 she has submitted a bill to re-nationalize an aircraft manufacturer operated by Lockheed Martin. Speaking in the industrial city of Cordoba, Kirchner said she had signed off on a bill "with which we are going to transfer to the state all (Lockheed) shares," returning the factory to national ownership.

The move, the latest to reassert state control over the country's strategic industries, follows the expropriation of Aerolineas Argentinas from the Spanish company Marsans and the creation of a single state pension system that eliminated private pension funds.

If the bill is approved by congress, Argentina will pay out $64 million for a company that has annual revenues of $50 million.

Argentina privatized the Cordoba-based Fabrica Militar de Aviones in 1995 in a deal with Lockheed Martin, which used the factory to upgrade IA-63 Pampa jet trainer aircraft.

Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina S.A. employs 1,200 people and provides depot maintenance for the Argentine air force and military and commercial customers, the company said.

"With the nationalization of Lockheed we will recover a technologically advanced aeronautics industry," said Oscar Cuattormo, the defense ministry's planning chief.

Peronist president Carlos Menem initiated a wave of privatizations in the 1990s, but many utilities were brought back under state control under president Nestor Kirchner, the current president's husband and predecessor. The mail system, the water company and railroad lines were among those utilities that were privatized, but they have since swung back to the state. President Cristina Kirchner portrayed the re-nationalization of the Lockheed Martin operation as an effort to make industrial development the leading edge of the Argentine economy. She said her liberal predecessors tried to convert Argentina into a service economy.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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