Westinghouse enters deal with group from Morocco Contracts valued at up to $1 billion


Westinghouse will play a large role in "rewiring" the kingdom of Morocco under a joint venture agreement with a leading Moroccan industrialist.

Westinghouse Electronic Systems Co. said that its partner in the joint venture is the Othman Benjelloun Group. Othman Benjelloun "is a leading industrialist in Morocco, who is very well connected with the royal family, and his companies are extremely wide-ranging," Bryan Wiggins, a Westinghouse spokesman, said.

A Westinghouse press release pegged the potential of the venture at between $500 million and $1 billion during the '90s.

In remarks prepared for a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Mr. Benjelloun was even more optimistic.

"The business projections we make today may look extremely conservative when we look back at them 10 years from now," he said in a prepared statement.

Morocco is a prosperous nation with oil resources along the Mediterranean Sea in North Africa. It is ruled by King Hassan II, and its people speak French and Arabic.

The Moroccan king is in Washington this week for talks with the Bush administration, which has cleared the way for Morocco to receive F-16 fighter jets. Morocco is liberalizing its trade agreements and encouraging foreign investment in the nation.

As part of yesterday's announcements, the Westinghouse unit said that it has signed a contract worth about $21 million to redo the air traffic control system at Morocco's main airport. The Benjelloun Group will participate in that initial contract as well. It calls for several new radars and the computer hardware and software to make their signals intelligible to control tower personnel.

But the air traffic contract is small compared with the scope of the new joint venture.

The joint venture will pursue contracts to:

* Modernize Morocco's entire air defense system and air traffic system.

* Conduct large-scale training programs to teach Moroccan professionals in the fields of advanced electronics, electromechanical systems and computer science.

* Install security systems at airports and military bases.

* Install equipment to keep track of vehicles such as buses and railroad cars.

* Update the nation's governmental radio systems.

The joint venture is not expected to generate new employment for Westinghouse.

Its Electronic Systems Group, based near Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Linthicum, is the largest manufacturing employer in the state with about 10,000 workers. Mr. Wiggins said that the venture does raise the possibility of large new orders for the group and "contributes to the continuing stability of our business picture."

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