Franco-German talks on EADS
Germany and France are discussing a shake-up of the corporate structure at Airbus parent EADS, under which each country would hold about 12 per cent of the aircraft maker, several people familiar with the matter have said.
The talks, reported earlier by German newspaper Handelsblatt, aim to rearrange a complex web of shareholdings that have come under the spotlight after the collapse of a proposed merger between EADS and British defence contractor BAE Systems.
If the talks are successful, it would signal a return to pragmatic Franco-German decision-making over EADS after strains exposed by disagreements over the EADS-BAE deal.
Control of EADS, founded in 2000, is shared between car maker Daimler, representing German interests with voting rights of 22.5 per cent, and a French consortium that combines the government’s 15 per cent with 7.5 per cent held by French media firm Lagardere.
Spain controls a further 5.5 per cent.
The changes under discussion would dissolve EADS’s shareholder pact at least in its current form. Both Daimler and Lagardere say they want to sell or reduce their stakes.
The German government wants to achieve parity with France by buying shares controlled by Daimler. France has traditionally opposed any reduction in its stake.
Any reshuffle has to take account of the laws in the Netherlands, where EADS is registered. These – in most cases – require parties to launch a bid if they collectively own 30 per cent of a company.
Under a compromise now being discussed, France’s share would be shaved to 12 per cent and Germany would buy about 12 per cent from the block controlled by Daimler, the sources said, asking not to be identified.
As a result, state shareholdings, including Spain’s 5.5 per cent, would sit just below the 30 per cent bid threshold, thus avoiding a messy and unwanted nationalisation. – (Reuters)