EADS in talks to buy back stake from France

AIRBUS parent EADS is in talks to buy back 1.56 per cent of its stock from the French government, it said yesterday, the latest step in the overhaul of state interests in Europe’s largest aerospace group.

The move, which could raise some €484m (£414m), marks the first time France has contemplated selling part of its 15 per cent stake in EADS since the group was created from a merger of French, German and Spanish aerospace businesses back in 2000.

EADS said the discussions focused on the repurchase of shares that the French government has already agreed to place beyond its voting control as part of the wider corporate shake-up.

The price for the off-market transaction would be €37.35, equal to the amount obtained by the government’s previous industrial partner Lagardere, the French media group, for its own stake in EADS, the company said in a statement.

Under sweeping changes ratified by shareholders last month, France is keeping a core voting share of 12 per cent while ringfencing the remaining three per cent in an independent Dutch foundation, whose voting patterns it cannot influence.

The scheme is designed to avoid a combination of French, German and Spanish state shareholdings breaking through the 30 per cent threshold that would require a full takeover bid in the Netherlands, where EADS is registered.