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Lockheed Defends Northrop Merger

April 23, 1998

DALLAS (AP) _ Lockheed Martin Corp. told shareholders Thursday that its proposed merger with Northrop Grumman Corp. still has merit, despite the government’s attempt to block the $8.3 billion deal.

The nation’s largest defense contractor held its annual shareholders’ meeting in Dallas. Chief executive Vance Coffman would not comment any further on the Northrop deal other than to reiterate support.

Coffman also was named chairman at the meeting, assuming the title from Norman Augustine, who will remain a company director. Coffman was named CEO and vice chairman last August.

The Justice Department has sued to block the Bethesda, Md.-based company’s proposed merger with Los Angeles-based Northrop, saying it would discourage competition. The merger would produce a company that would take up 25 percent of the Pentagon’s budget.

The government has rejected several divestiture proposals aimed at calming fears the union would harm competition in key areas of defense technology, including radar and systems that help combat planes avoid enemy missiles.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for May 6. The trial is set for Sept. 8.

Lockheed Martin has sales surpassing $28 billion in 1997 and employs about 173,000 people worldwide making products such as the F-16 fighter and the Trident missile.

Coffman also declined to comment about pending F-16 deals, including a possible multibillion-dollar contract with the United Arab Emirates.

``The United Arab Emirates is a prospect that we view favorably,″ he said. ``The customer has asked us not to comment.″

The trade journal Defense Daily has reported that the Middle Eastern nation wants to buy 80 F-16s and is preparing to negotiate. The story also says the deal could still be delayed.

The UAE president is scheduled to visit Washington on May 12.

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