by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Dec 05, 2012
The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), which owns the plane maker Airbus, said on Wednesday that it has agreed to a new equity structure that will reduce the role of state shareholders while preserving their strategic interests.
The deal will leave France and Germany each with 12-percent holdings and Spain with 4.0 percent, a statement said, as the German automaker Daimler and French conglomerate Lagardere curtailed their own stakes.
"This agreement aims at normalising and simplifying the governance of EADS while securing a shareholding structure that allows France, Germany and Spain to protect their legitimate strategic interests," a statement issued by the company said.
EADS added that it would buy back up to 15 percent of its free-floating capital in the first half of next year, subject to market conditions, a move that would underpin the share price as Daimler and Lagardere sold their stakes.
EADS shares jumped by 2.46 percent to 27.73 euros on the Paris stock exchange, which closed before the announcement on Wednesday with a gain of 0.28 percent overall.
The agreement allows for the percentage of freely floating EADS shares to jump from 49 percent at present to more than 70 percent, the group said.
A statement issued by the French presidency emphasised that the deal would "guarantee the interests of the French, German and Spanish states within the group."
It would also give EADS "the freedom of movement it needs to pursue its development," the French statement added, while underscoring that the group's headquarters would remain in Toulouse, southern France.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the deal as well, saying in a statement that as a result, "the Franco-German partnership within EADS can advance in a balanced manner. The spirit that existed when the group was founded is thus respected."
EADS was created in July 2000 via a merger of the German defence company DASA, France's Aerospatiale-Matra and the Spanish group CASA.
According to the French presidency's statement, the new agreement "reinforces the protection of the nation's strategic defence interests via a specific agreement between EADS and the French state."
In particular, Paris would have a priority to buy shares in the French aerospace company Dassault, in which EADS owns a stake of 46 percent, should it be put up for sale.
Officials in Paris and Berlin have been in talks for several months on how to handle the exits of key EADS shareholders Daimler and Lagardere, a development that was set to shake up the original equity framework.
According to the EADS statement, the "present shareholder pact (is) expected to be replaced by a normal company governance scheme."
EADS, which is officially registered in the Netherlands, is active in building satellites, rocket launchers, helicopters and defence systems in addition to its main unit, Airbus.
The group recently tried to seal a tie up with the British defence group BAE Systems, but that deal, said to be worth $45 billion (34 billion euros) fell through, reportedly owing to German concern that it would be sidelined within the merged entity.
Britain was said to be concerned about undue state influence over a new global aerospace giant.
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