STEPHEN SINGER

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) ¿ Shares of Textron Inc. soared nearly 50 percent Thursday on heightened speculation the manufacturer will be purchased.

Published reports said a group of United Arab Emirates companies and a Kuwaiti firm are offering $21 per share for the Providence, R.I., company that manufactures Bell helicopters, Cessna jets and turf-maintenance equipment. Kuwait newspaper Al-Watan Daily, citing unidentified sources, reported the possible offer earlier.

The jump in the share price followed seven days of increases for Textron on speculation that it would be bought by Lockheed Martin Corp. or Raytheon Co.

Representatives of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have said the two companies would not comment on rumors or speculation.

Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Conn., said the significant increase Thursday indicates a possible deal may be more than a rumor.

"There's got to be something to it," he said. "It's well-placed speculation."

Still, Wilkinson said there may be questions about a consortium of Middle Eastern companies buying the manufacturer of helicopters that are supplied to the U.S. military. He cited opposition in 2006 to Dubai-owned DP World's plan to run several U.S. ports.

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