PARIS (Reuters) - French group Lagardere, a key shareholder in European aerospace and defence company EADS, said it would closely examine any tie-up between the owner of planemaker Airbus and British peer BAE before accepting a deal.
BAE Systems and EADS said on Wednesday they were in talks to create an industry leader that would overtake U.S. rival Boeing in sales and contend with defence cutbacks in Europe and the United States.
“The Lagardere group intends to ensure that all consequences associated with the proposed EADS NV - BAE Systems Plc merger are taken into consideration in determining the terms and conditions of the proposed transaction before it consents to the deal,” Lagardere said on Thursday.
French media-to-aerospace group Lagardere owns 7.5 percent of EADS as part of a pact designed to maintain the balance between the company’s French and German shareholders. The French state owns 15 percent, while German carmaker Daimler holds 15 percent, with 22.5 percent of voting rights.
Daimler confirmed after the talks were revealed on Wednesday that it still planned to reduce its stake in EADS by the end of this year. Germany had agreed, via state-owned bank KfW, to buy half of Daimler’s stake to ensure the Franco-German balance.
Any deal between BAE and EADS would likely help Lagardere unload its stake and enable it to return a large chunk of the proceeds to shareholders, Exane BNP Paribas analyst Charles Bedouelle said in a note.
“Lagardere has wanted to sell its 7.5 percent stake in EADS for a long time, but internal constraints and the need to respect a French-German balance among shareholders have made a disposal difficult - especially as there is no obvious French buyer,” Bedouelle said.
The potential deal would give BAE shareholders 40 percent and EADS investors 60 percent of a combined group with a dual stock listing that should lower costs. The new group’s products would range from Airbus commercial jets and military transport planes to the BAE-made Eurofighter Typhoon jets and Astute class nuclear-powered submarines.
Combined, BAE and EADS would have sales of about 72 billion euros (57.7 billion pounds), based on 2011 numbers, and 220,000 employees worldwide.
(This story corrects French state holding in EADS and adds Daimler’s voting rights in fourth paragraph)
Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Brian Love