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EADS overhauls shareholding structure, with Germany to get direct stake

7 December 2012

European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS), the parent company of Airbus, has announced a restructuring in its ownership that will allow direct involvement from the German Government, while reducing the stake of French ownership from 15% to 12%.

Under the new arrangement, France and Germany will each hold a 12% stake, while Spain will have around 4%.

The deal is subject to customary regulatory conditions and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), the investment arm of the German state, acquiring an initial block of 5% of EADS. An extraordinary general meeting of shareholders will be held during the first half of 2013 to vote on the proposed changes to the company's articles of association on the proposed share buy-back and to elect new directors.

"Strategy and industrial projects in the future will be solely defined and decided by the board of directors and the executive team; the operations will be managed without any outside interference from specific shareholders or shareholder concerts."

For the first time, the German Government will get direct equity in the company through state-owned KfW bank; however, the Spanish Government's holding in the company has been reduced from 5.5%.

Until now, France and Germany each held a 22.5% share in EADs through a combination of state holding companies and private-sector owners.

EADS chief executive officer Tom Enders called the shareholding overhaul the most important change since the company was formed over 12 years ago.

"Strategy and industrial projects in the future will be solely defined and decided by the board of directors and the executive team; the operations will be managed without any outside interference from specific shareholders or shareholder concerts," he said.

"At the same time, the company will take care of legitimate national security interests of governments through appropriate undertakings."

The change follows on from differences between its German and French owners and the UK Government in October, which led to the failure of a proposed $45bn partnership with UK-based BAE Systems.

The tie-up with BAE Systems would have created a firm with a market value just short of the US aircraft leader, Boeing.

Private sector investors Daimler, the German carmaker that owns 15% of the Europe's largest aerospace company and has 22.5% of voting rights, and Lagardere, a French defence and media group, that holds 7.5% stake, will divest their shares in EADS.

Lagardere and Daimler have long been planning to pull out or reduce their stakes as they believe their investment is no longer strategic.

With the EADS's announcement to launch share buy-back programme of up to 15% in 2013, the companies can cut their equities significantly.