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Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK
Boeing seals Arab aerospace deal
By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News, Paris air show

Waleed Ahmed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi
UAE is planning a major investment in aerospace
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has agreed to partner with Boeing as part of efforts to become a major supplier of hi-tech aeroplane components.

Boeing will assist in developing an Abu Dhabi-based aerospace research and development centre.

"It is about diversifying our economy," Waleed Ahmed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi, chief of a government-owned investment vehicle said in an interview.

He added that currently 60% of the UAE's GDP is oil based.

One tenth of the world's known oil reserves can be found in the UAE.

Middle Eastern aerospace

Mr Al Muhairi declined to specify how much money would be invested to develop an aerospace industry in the UAE focusing on making advanced materials and composites, though a source close to the situation told BBC News it could be at least $5bn (2.5bn).

The agreement with Boeing was formalised with the signing of a memorandum of understanding that marks the first step by a Middle Eastern player into the aerospace manufacturing arena.

"This MOU with Mubadala demonstrates our belief in the viability of the Middle East's aerospace sector," said Jim Albaugh, chief executive of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.

"We have fantastic relations with the Middle East and the rest of the world," says Mr Al Muhairi. "Some people call us the Switzerland of the Middle East."

Valuable jobs

As chief executive of Mubadala Development Company, an investment vehicle set up by the government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, he already oversees a portfolio "in the double-digit billions", invested in a string of sectors.

The investment company was set up to bring investment and jobs to the UAE, along with strategically important know-how that should help it maintain prosperity in the distant future when its oil reserves run out.

"It is about high value-added job creation," Mr Al Muhairi says.

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