Shareholders move EADS away from state influence

27th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

EADS shareholders on Wednesday approved reforms aimed at lessening governments' influence in the European aerospace giant and parent company of Airbus.

The extraordinary shareholders' meeting in Amsterdam of the Dutch-registered company overwhelmingly adopted 15 proposed amendments in a major easing of state clout in the powerful group.

They notably dissolved a complicated shareholders pact that gave EADS's three founding states -- France, Germany and Spain -- veto rights on strategic decisions.

The amendments mean that two of the group's founding shareholders, German automaker Daimler and the French media group Lagardere, can sell their stakes, and the amount of EADS shares that trade freely will rise above 70 percent from below 50 percent in December.

Germany is to buy a 12 percent stake in EADS from Daimler, and France is to cut its holding to 12 percent, with Spain at 4.0 percent, but the shareholder's pact limits areas they can influence to strategic issues such as national security.

An expanded board of directors of 12 people from six countries can now decide without interference from states on "acquisitions, alliances and mergers," executive director Tom Enders said.

Germany in October blocked a plan to merge EADS with British defence company BAE Systems in a move that would have created a global aerospace giant to rival US company Boeing.

EADS makes a wide range of products from helicopters and planes to rocket launchers, satellites and security systems.

The changes are to occur on April 2 at the latest, EADS said, once they have been registered with the Dutch authorities.

Lagardere head Arnaud Lagardere expects to make a capital gain of around 2.0 billion euros ($2.6 billion) through the sale of his company's 7.5 percent holding in EADS, he said in an interview published Wednesday by the French financial daily Les Echos.

The group acquired 61.1 million EADS shares and has held them on its books at a value of 437 million euros, but their market value is now on the order of 2.5 billion euros, Lagardere noted.

© 2013 AFP

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