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Dubai firm to buy 80 percent stake in Sino Swearingen

June 05, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- A Middle Eastern company appears to be purchasing an 80 percent stake in Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corp., a financially embattled business jet maker with operations in Berkeley County and San Antonio.

The investment by Emirates Investment & Development PSC, (Emivest) based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, was first reported Tuesday by the Central News Agency in Taiwan.

The investment will enable the Texas-based company to initiate "full-scale production" of the SJ30 jet, which has been touted as the world's fastest and highest flying craft of its kind, Emivest's chairman announced Wednesday in a news release distributed by Sino Swearingen.

Mark Fairchild, Sino Swearingen's marketing and sales vice president, declined to comment Wednesday evening.

The financial investment by 10-year-old Emivest was reported to be a minimum of $150 million, according to Peter Harris of MS&L, a New York-based public relations agency.

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Approximately 80 percent of the company's more than 550 employees work in Texas facilities, with the remainder at a facility next to Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport south of Martinsburg.

Harris confirmed Wednesday that the new investment in what has been a U.S.-Taiwan joint venture received approval from the U.S. Treasury's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States in mid-May.

Incorporated in 1997, Sino Swearingen was born from a two-year partnership between Swearingen Aircraft Corp. in San Antonio and Sino Aerospace Investment Corp. of Taiwan.

As recently as last summer, the company had said it had laid off dozens of employees amid a management shake-up and search for new investment.

In November 2007, Sino Swearingen announced the SJ30 jet had made a record-breaking 16 hour and 24 minute flight from San Antonio to Dubai, where it made its Middle East debut at the Dubai Air Show.

Headquartered in Dubai, Emivest says it "aims to provide credible investment and development services to support regional economy, social and environmental progress" with investment in manufacturing, horticulture, construction, real estate, telecommunications and other economic sectors.

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