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Leonardo eyes partnerships in cyber security expansion -CEO

ROME, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Italian defence group Leonardo is seeking partnerships with hi-tech companies in the cyber security sector, Chief Executive Alessandro Profumo said on Tuesday.

The state-controlled group, which already counts the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Britain's defence ministry among its clients for cyber security products and services, has recently created a new division specialising in the sector.

The division employs about 1,500 people and has annual turnover of 400 million euros ($440 million), representing 3% of Rome-based Leonardo's total revenue.

"We are looking at small companies that have interesting technologies," Profumo told journalists on the sidelines of a Cyber security event in Rome, adding that it could look at equity investments as well as cooperation agreements.

In a speech at the annual Cybertech conference, Profumo said that the global market for products and services in the cyber security business is estimated to reach $180 billion by 2021.

(Reporting by Francesca Landini Editing by David Goodman)