Germany to discuss EADS future post-Daimler


German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government will meet later this month to discuss the possible consequences of carmaker Daimler selling its stake in aerospace firm EADS, says a source familiar with the matter.

Any sale by Daimler would have implications for the Franco-German shareholder balance within EADS, raising politically sensitive issues in Berlin and Paris.
“They agreed to speak about it at the end of February,” the source told Reuters on Friday. “There are still different views among the coalition partners.”

The source added that Merkel had already had an initial talk about the issue with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle, a member of the junior partner Free Democrats, Reuters reports.

Control of Europe’s largest aerospace company is shared between French and German interests, and any decisions about its complex shareholding structure would have to be taken in tandem.

Although the French government has a 15 percent stake, effective control is in the hands of Daimler and French media firm Lagardere because of a shareholder pact agreed when the company was forged from a pan-European merger in 2000.

Both companies have sold part of their stakes since the company was founded and are reported to be interested in focusing on core activities. But any change could pose political headaches, especially ahead of French elections in 2012.

Daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported earlier on Friday that Daimler was in early talks to sell its stake in EADS.

Daimler declined to comment on the report, which cited business sources. A spokesman for EADS in Munich said it was up to Daimler to comment.

Daimler holds 22.5 percent of the voting rights in EADS but shares its stake with a group of investors, in effect giving the carmaker a 15 percent share and the other investors 7.5 percent.

Lagardere owns 7.5 percent.

Bodo Uebber, EADS chairman and finance chief of Daimler, told German media in December that France and Germany would need to be in step over any changes in the shareholder structure to preserve the Franco-German balance of power.

Lagardere has indicated it is not planning a sale of its stake in EADS before 2012, when a consortium agreement expires, but it has made clear it does not see itself as an indefinite partner.

Analysts say France and Germany face difficulties in finding industrial partners willing to replace Daimler and Lagardere while preserving strategic oversight of a company that makes France’s nuclear weapons and part of the Eurofighter combat jet.

A separate pact over the way EADS is managed expires in June 2012, meaning decisions over leadership and core shareholdings could well come to a head at the same time.