UPDATE 2-Delayed Saudi jet deal weighs on BAE profit
* H1 EBITA 939 mln stg vs 920 mln forecast
* Revenue down 10 percent to 8.33 bln stg
* Shares down 1.1 pct
By Rhys Jones
LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - BAE Systems said delays in completing a substantial deal with Saudi Arabia and lower spending by European and American military customers dented profit, in a sector facing further government defence cuts.
Europe's largest defence contractor, which will build Britain's next generation of nuclear-armed submarines, on Thursday said earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation (EBITA) fell 3 percent in the first six months of the year.
U.S. rivals, such as Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, also reported lower earnings last month, and flagged uncertainty about an additional $500 billion in U.S. defence spending cuts that could come in January, on top of $487 billion in cuts already made.
"BAE were similar to other large U.S. defence companies," said RBC analyst Rob Stallard. "I see more of the same in big defence with sales below expectations as the U.S. budget declines."
BAE, which makes around half of its revenues in the United States, said sales at its U.S. platforms and services unit fell 16 percent in the first half.
The group said it had seen less disruption to the award of U.S. defence contracts this year than in 2011 but that it was making plans to cope with further delays caused by presidential elections in November, which could push back 2013 budgets.
"We have been running through plans with all of our U.S. businesses and will take actions on a programme-by-programme basis when we get more clarity," chief executive Ian King told reporters.
"It's not all plain sailing given the challenging environment," King said.
BAE - part of the Eurofighter consortium that lost out on the sale of 126 jets to India earlier this year - said it expected to deliver "modest growth" in 2012 subject to the completion of the Saudi deal.
Saudi Arabia - the world's top oil exporter - signed a contract with BAE in 2007 to buy 72 Typhoon aircraft, 24 of which have been delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force. The Salam deal, as it is known, is worth around 4.5 billion pounds ($7 billion).
Talks between BAE and Saudi over changes to the price of the deal are expected to be completed in the coming months.
"We're making good progress in commercial discussions with Saudi, which we anticipate will close it in the second half," King said.
Shares in BAE, which have risen 7 percent in the last month, were down 1.1 percent at 308.9 pence by 0920 GMT, valuing the business at around 10.5 billion pounds.
EBITA fell to 939 million pounds in the six months to the end of June, above a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S average forecast of 920 million pounds.
Sales fell 10 percent to 8.33 billion pounds, while the order book edged up 2 percent to 40 billion pounds.
BAE increased its half-year dividend by 4 percent to 7.8 pence per share.
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