Finmeccanica delays accounts results over India probe

Giuseppe Orsi

Italian defence group Finmeccanica has delayed publication of its 2012 results after a bribery probe connected with the sale of 12 helicopters to Indian authorities, it said on Thursday.

After a board meeting, Finmeccanica said it had postponed the approval of its full-year accounts from March 12 to a new meeting to be held no later than April 30, to "evaluate the impact of recent economic events on its balance sheet."

Finmeccanica is at the centre of an Italian probe alleging that it paid bribes to win the 560 million euro ($750 million) contract awarded in 2010 to its Anglo-Italian helicopter unit AgustaWestland.

An Indian delegation is in Italy to collect evidence relating to the probe, which escalated last week with the arrest of the then head of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi.

The Italian investigation is putting pressure on the Indian government, already buffeted by a string of graft cases. It has also become a political issue in Italy ahead of parliamentary elections on Feb. 24-25.

Italian prosecutors accuse Orsi of paying bribes to intermediaries to secure the helicopter deal back in 2010, when he was head of AgustaWestland. According to the arrest warrant, the Indian tender was twisted to favour the Italian firm.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday the government had nothing to hide.

Orsi has denied any wrongdoing.

Finmeccanica's executives met a senior Indian delegation in Italy on Thursday about the probe, and both sides said the talks were positive.

"A very positive meeting for our side. The company has assured us it will provide all the papers to satisfy our concerns about the allegations ... in the shortest possible time," an Indian official with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

India's defence ministry has threatened to cancel the helicopter deal unless Finmeccanica can give assurances that no bribes were paid. Three AW101 helicopters, manufactured in Yeovil in the UK, have already been delivered to India.

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