European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. (EAD) will see a German state bank replace Daimler AG (DAI) as a shareholder as Germany seeks to maintain an equal footing with France in the maker of planes and weapons.
KfW-Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau’s planned purchase of the 7.5 percent stake will be completed by the end of 2012, EADS Chairman Bodo Uebber told shareholders at the annual meeting in Amsterdam today.
“This is intended to maintain the Franco-German balance,” Uebber said.
The transaction has been in the works for months as German carmaker Daimler sought an exit from EADS. France and Germany have been keen to protect the political balance within EADS, whose assets include planemaker Airbus SAS as well as helicopters, satellites and missiles. Germany has said it may purchase shares held by banks and local governments, potentially raising its stake to 15 percent.
Raising the German stake to that level would put a third of the company in government hands. Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders, who took over the running of EADS today, has criticized the government holdings, saying they pose the threat of overbearing state involvement.
Departing EADS CEO Louis Gallois told shareholders that the company is poised for higher earnings and is “increasingly optimistic” about 2012, even if it’s too early to upgrade guidance.
Shareholders today also voted to name Arnaud Lagardere, CEO and general partner of publishing company Lagardere SCA (MMB), as EADS chairman to succeed Uebber. Lagardere himself didn’t show to the shareholder assembly, and had called last night to excuse himself, Uebber said.
“At some point it would be almost natural for the shareholder structure to evolve,” said Sandy Morris, an analyst at Jefferies who has a “buy” rating on the shares. “If you have a big international company that’s come that far, I think governments would have to take a look at the day when they don’t need to be there.”
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