October 11, 2015 / 10:35 AM / in 2 years

France to agree aerospace deals with Saudi Arabia: sources

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Saudi Arabia are to agree big aerospace contracts when French Prime Minister Manuel Valls visits the kingdom on Tuesday, sources close to the matter said on Sunday.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls attends a ceremony to sign military contracts with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (unseen) at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, October 10, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Valls is on a tour of several Middle Eastern countries which began on Saturday in Cairo with the signing of a deal with Egypt to sell two helicopter carriers.

One source said that important contracts would be agreed with Saudi Arabia and another source said that there would be a military contract with Airbus Helicopters.

Saudi Arabia has shown interest recently in purchasing flexible assault naval vessels like the Mistral helicopter carriers sold to Egypt as well as multi-purpose Fremm frigates. However, negotiations are so far not underway.

The country is also interested in spy satellites made by French defense group Thales, which has flagged hopes of winning a big contract with Riyadh.

France meanwhile hopes to sell Saudi Arabia two next-generation European pressurized reactors made by the state-controlled nuclear group Areva.

France agreed to sell the Mistral helicopter carriers to Egypt after cancelling a deal with Russia over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in Cairo on Saturday that the Mistral deal with Egypt was worth about 950 million euros ($1.1 billion), including modifications and training. The two vessels are expected to be delivered in February and March.

($1 = 0.8805 euros)

Reporting by Cyril altmeyer; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau in Cairo; writing by Leigh Thomas; editing by Ralph Boulton

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