When Sweden competes with France for a big overseas business contract, there is one trump card its Gallic rival cannot match: a sitting monarch.
So it was clear that Saab’s battle with Dassault for a multi-billion dollar Brazilian fighter jet order was nearing crunch time when King Carl XVI Gustaf landed in Brasilia last week to make a sales pitch to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Dassault’s Rafale fighter is considered favourite for the long-awaited deal, involving an initial 36 jets with the possibility of scores more in future, but Saab has waged a strong campaign behind its Gripen warplane.
Brazil’s is the first of three forthcoming fighter contracts that will test Saab’s ability to compete in the big league of defence contractors, with the Gripen also in contention for orders from India and Switzerland.
Åke Svensson, Saab chief executive, insists that, with deals secured from South Africa, Thailand, Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as Sweden, the Gripen’s future is safe.
But the forthcoming contests appear to offer Saab its best chance of significant new aerospace business. The three independently minded countries – Brazil, India and Switzerland – are more likely to provide a less political contract process than markets where non-business factors often tip the balance for US manufacturers such as Boeing and Lockheed.