UPDATE 1-EADS to bid alone for US tanker contract-sources

* EADS may add a key U.S. supplier later

* Pentagon offered to extend bid deadline to July 9

* Senator blasts Boeing supporter’s comments

By Tim Hepher and Andrea Shalal-Esa

PARIS/WASHINGTON, April 19 (BestGrowthStock) – Airbus parent EADS
(EAD.PA: ) is poised to bid alone for a U.S. refueling plane deal
valued at up to $50 billion after failing to recruit L-3
Communications Holdings (LLL.N: ) or another major company as a
key supplier, sources familiar with the matter said.

EADS will still be backed by a big team of suppliers in its
challenge to Boeing Co (BA.N: ), including engine maker General
Electric Co (GE.N: ), Honeywell International Inc (HON.N: ) and
Rockwell Collins Inc (COL.N: ) to name a few, said the sources,
who were not authorized to speak on the record.

But the team will not include — at least for the time
being — a U.S. company that would have done some classified
work on the A330-based tanker and helped to manage the huge
program, the sources said.

“EADS will be on its own for now,” one source familiar with
the matter said, following weeks of debate triggered by the
loss of its original partner Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N: )

An announcement was expected this week, possibly as early
as Tuesday, said the sources.

Guy Hicks, spokesman for EADS’ U.S. arm, said the company
continued to examine its options and declined further comment.

EADS, spurred by Pentagon officials to consider a solo bid,
had talked with L-3 and other companies after Northrop withdrew
from the politically-charged competition last month, arguing
that revamped rules favored Boeing’s smaller 767-based tanker.

EADS and Northrop, which had been the prime contractor, won
the last tanker contract in February 2008, but the Pentagon
canceled that deal after government auditors upheld a Boeing
protest and faulted the Air Force’s handling of the contest.

EADS has a separate U.S. unit that can do classified work
on the program, but had hoped to find a large U.S. partner with
security clearances and certifications for some of the detailed
work involved, especially given the tight deadline for
submitting its bid, the sources said.

But EADS was forced to rethink its plans when L-3 cooled on
the deal, with at least one source suggesting that L-3 had come
under political pressure to skip the deal.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions on Monday accused Norm
Dicks, a Democratic congressman from the big Boeing state of
Washington, of trying to intimidate EADS’ would-be partners.

“I am deeply disappointed that the Chairman of the House
Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Norm Dicks, would publicly engage in political intimidation to restrict competition on
any contract,” said Sessions, who comes from Alabama, the state
where EADS would assemble the tankers if it wins the latest
contract.

Dicks last week was reported as saying that he hoped U.S.
firms would not team with EADS, although his spokesman said
Dicks was merely questioning why other companies would see the
business case differently than Northrop had.

Dicks and other Boeing supporters argue that the Pentagon
should not extend the bid deadline for tankers given a recent
World Trade Organization ruling that Airbus received unfair
civil subsidies for its airplanes, including the A330.

Several sources said EADS remains in contact with all
potential parties pending a bid.

“I would not rule out that they will get a partner at a
later date, but at this point, they really needed to give the
Pentagon and the world an indication of what their intentions
are,” said Scott Hamilton, aerospace analyst with Leeham Co.

The Pentagon has said it will extend the current May 10
deadline until July 9 if EADS agrees to enter the competition.

That gives EADS executives limited time to prepare its
proposal, a document that could wind up being 20,000 to 30,000
pages, although Boeing has argued that even a 60-day extension
is unnecessary.

Defense consultant Jim McAleese said EADS had little choice
but to bid for the work. “The reality is that that there will
not be another opportunity of this importance in the lifetimes
of that management team,” he said. “This is the biggest
opportunity they will have.”
(Reporting by Tim Hepher and Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Tim
Dobbyn)

UPDATE 1-EADS to bid alone for US tanker contract-sources