Germany, France to discuss EADS interests

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BERLIN, Sep 18 (Reuters) Germany and France plan to start discussions on how to defend their interests in European aerospace group EADS this year, Peter Hintze, Germany's coordinator for aerospace, said today.

''Germany and France will this year start talks about protecting their strategic and security interests independently of the shareholders,'' Hintze, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), told Reuters.

He said the question of a ''golden share'' could be discussed and decisions could be made next year.

Introducing instruments such as a ''golden share'' would give France and Germany a veto over the firm's strategic decisions. But the European Commission has said golden shares generally have no place in the internal market.

Last year Russian state-controlled bank VTB alarmed France and Germany when it unexpectedly built up a five per cent stake in EADS.

The French government holds a direct 15 per cent stake in EADS while a further 7.5 per cent is owned by French media firm Lagardere. German carmaker DaimlerChrysler owns a matching 22.5 percent of voting rights.

Planemaker Airbus, the core business unit of EADS, plans to sell all or part of six of its 16 European plants after delays to its A380 superjumbo hit company finances last year and prompted a structural overhaul aimed at cutting costs.

Hintze's comments came after Merkel met representatives of DaimlerChrysler, premiers from German states with EADS factories and new investors in the group.

The sale of German Airbus factories needs more time, said Hintze, adding it would probably take months rather than days.

Hintze said financial and technological groups were possible buyers of plants and he also said that some were from the United States.

Hintze also said a British representative should join EADS's board of directors in future, a move long demanded by the UK, a major defence customer and home to Airbus's wingmaking operations.

REUTERS SR AS2222

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