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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 13:17 GMT
Defiant Thales prepares to expand
Thales fighter jets
Thales' chief says the group should not be broken up
French defence group Thales has said it is planning acquisitions after the firm halved its debts.

Its comments came as it reported a 3% rise in 2005 net operating income to 722m euros ($859m; 495m).

Separately, Thales chief executive Denis Ranque said dismantling the group would be bad news for shareholders.

Mr Ranque responded to talk that Thales might sell some units to be merged with French telecoms firm Alcatel or European aerospace group EADS.

Organic growth

Thales, one of Europe's largest electronic arms supplier, reduced its net debt in 2005 by almost half to 398m euros, from 860m euros the year before.

Thales Watchkeeper 450 pilotless reconnaissance vehicle (copyright Thales)
Thales aims to grow fast in the years to come

Finance director Patrice Durand said that Thales could raise about 1bn euros to buy new assets.

The company's results were helped by cost-cutting measures and healthy order books.

Mr Durand said that a similar level of growth would be seen in the coming year.

"With very slight growth in defence budgets in most European countries but strong momentum in civil markets, particularly in aerospace and services, the company has set a target [of] the same or slightly higher level... in revenues in 2006," he said.

Thales said that by 2008 it was aiming for a 25% rise in revenues, with 15% coming from organic growth and the rest through acquisitions.

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