Germany seeks local investor for EADS stakes

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Germany is starting to look for domestic private investors to buy part of Daimler’s stake in EADS and keep German influence at the European aerospace group, ruling coalition sources said.

“The starting shot has been fired,” one source close to the matter told Reuters. Other sources in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition confirmed this, saying that a systematic search would get underway in the coming weeks.

The priority for the government is to find one or more domestic investor — either industrial or financial — for a 7.5 percent stake and to retain German leverage at Airbus maker EADS, a major employer in Germany, said the sources, Reuters reports.

Automaker Daimler, which owns 15 percent of EADS and has voting rights for a further 7.5 percent of its shares held by a consortium of financial investors, has made clear it wanted to reduce its stake. It no longer views aerospace as part of its core business.

The French government and French media group Lagardere together hold 22.5 percent of the aerospace group.

The sources said the German government aimed to clear up the matter by the end of the year, though it would not be a problem if it took longer.

The fragile power balance at EADS, which competes with Boeing in the global aerospace sector, has been politically sensitive ever since the group was created in 2000. Spanish state holding company SEPI holds 5.5 percent of the firm and the remainder of the stock is free floating.

German sources said previous efforts to find a buyer had shown there was only a very limited number of industrial or financial groups who were seriously interested in the stake.

If no buyer is found, one possibility may be to sell the shares to state bank KfW KFW.UL. However, there is opposition to this idea from some senior members of the Free Democrats (FDP), Germany’s junior coalition partner, who want to avoid any possible injection of federal money to EADS.