- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (AP) - President Cristina Fernandez announced Tuesday she will send Congress a bill to nationalize defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.’s aircraft maintenance facility in central Argentina.

Nationalization of Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina SA would boost industrial production by returning aeronautical technology development and production to the state, Fernandez said.

Tuesday’s announcement was expected due to preliminary contractual agreements in 2008 to transfer the company to the state.

The office of the National Auditor General will set the price for the company if Congress approves the nationalization, the Defense Ministry said in a news release. Fernandez’s Peronist party has a majority in both houses.

The government is likely to pay 67 million pesos ($18.3 million) for the company, the Ministry said, adding that the 1,050 employees will maintain their jobs if the takeover is approved.

“We have an open dialogue with the Ministry of Defense and will work together to carry out any required decisions to exercise the contractual obligations related to the transition,” Lockheed spokesman Rob Gross wrote The Associated Press in an e-mail. Gross would not provide details 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.

State-run companies in Argentina and across Latin America faced a wave of privatizations during the 1990s.

Fernandez has turned the tide, stepping up nationalization efforts begun by her predecessor and husband Nestor Kirchner. Congress approved a state takeover of billions of dollars in private pension funds and the takeover of the Spanish-owned Aerolineas Argentinas SA and its subsidiary Austral last year.

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