Prosecutors will unveil the result of its long running investigation into allegations of corruption and bribery at defense giant BAE Systems later on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) told Reuters a statement would be released by mid-morning following a probe into arms deals in the Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa and Tanzania dating back to the 1990s.

Lawyers believe BAE could face penalties and fines that could run into hundreds of millions of pounds if it is ever found guilty, although they caution that such cases are notoriously difficult to prove.

BAE shares were down 2.3 percent at 5:04 a.m. EDT

Reuters last week quoted sources close to the case as saying that the SFO wanted BAE to plead guilty and agree to a substantial fine by September 30 or face possible criminal prosecution.

(Reporting by John Bowker, Editing by Rhys Jones)