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UPDATE 1-Leonardo, Thales consider joint bid for Maxar's MDA space division - Leonardo CEO

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By Jamie Freed

SINGAPORE, July 2 (Reuters) - Italian aerospace and defence firm Leonardo SpA and France's Thales SA are considering the joint acquisition of a space business from U.S. firm Maxar Technologies Inc, Leonardo's CEO said on Tuesday.

The sale of the business - dubbed MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) - could fetch more than $1 billion and help address concerns about Maxar's $3.2 billion debt pile, people familiar with the matter told Reuters last month.

"We are considering that with our partner Thales," Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo said in a phone interview from Jakarta, where he is looking to boost sales of maritime patrol equipment and helicopters in Asia to help diversify revenue.

"For us, they have a very good technology in the antennas for satellites, so it is an option we are considering," he said of MDA.

Canada-based MDA is already a supplier to Thales Alenia Space, owned 67% by Thales and 33% by Leonardo, Profumo said, but he cautioned a deal was not guaranteed.

"We do have the capability of being a customer of Maxar and MDA also without this acquisition," he said.

"It is not something that is necessary to complete for our business. There is industrial sense in terms of integration but we are already a customer of them," Profumo added.

Thales did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Italian newspaper La Repubblica last month reported that Leonardo and Thales were interested in MDA, without citing sources.

Thales Alenia Space on Monday was awarded a contract by Indonesia's Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to design and manufacture a telecommunications satellite to be launched in late 2022.

Leonardo was talking to the Indonesian government about several other products, Profumo said, including manned and unmanned maritime surveillance options, as it looked to step up its presence in the Asian market.

Leonardo last year signed a memorandum of understanding with Kangde Investment Group of China to develop, produce and assemble composite materials for the Chinese and Russian CR929 widebody commercial jet project.

Profumo said the pair was interested in the work but a contract had not yet been awarded, noting rivals such as Spirit AeroSystems Holding Inc were also competing.

"We are bidding. We are not yet involved," he said.

U.S.-based Spirit did not respond to a request for comment outside usual business hours. (Reporting by Jamie Freed in Singapore; additional reporting by Francesca Landini in Milan; editing by Darren Schuettler)