BAE predicts good growth, unsure over bribery costs

BAE Systems, europe&rsquo;s largest defence firm, forecast &ldquo;good growth&rdquo; for the rest of the year yesterday, despite a slump in its sale of land vehicles.<br />The group also added it expected trading to &ldquo;benefit from any continued weakness of sterling against the US dollar.&rdquo;<br /><br />The US accounts for around 60 per cent of BAE&rsquo;s sales, and the firm is one the fifth biggest supplier to the US defence department. The weakness of the pound against the dollar has stimulated demand from the US, as government spending is able to go further. <br /><br />BAE also said its June to October trading was in line with forecasts. <br /><br />Meanwhile, BAE also said it was too early to assess the likely costs of a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into allegations of overseas bribery.<br /><br />The SFO said earlier this month it was prepared to prosecute BAE for corruption in relation to overseas contracts although it has yet to formally request a criminal trial, leaving the door open to an out of court settlement. <br /><br />&ldquo;It is in my view high time that the nation stopped attacking one of the few great success stories around and got behind this great company,&rdquo;BGCPartners analyst Howard Wheeldon said yesterday. <br /><br />He added that BAE brought &ldquo;huge value into the UKand its Exchequer&rdquo;.<br /><br />Analysts have urged the company to pay a fine to bring the situation to an early end and avoid a court battle, but only if that fine is less than &pound;100m.