UK manufacturer BAE Systems has confirmed it is discussing selling its 20% stake in Airbus to EADS.

News broke last night that BAE was looking to sell its entire stake in Airbus to raise £3 billion ($5.26 billion) to fund expansion of its US defence business. The company confirmed that "discussions are at an early stage and a further announcement will be made if and when appropriate," in a brief filing today with the London Stock Exchange. In its 2005 annual report, released in March, EADS stated Airbus's value as €17.5 billion ($21 billion), valuing BAE Systems’s 20% shareholding at around €3.5 billion ($4.2 billion). EADS has the right of first refusal should BAE opt to sell out of Airbus. The Franco-German giant already owns 80% of Airbus.

Speaking to British Broadcasting (BBC) this morning, BAE says there would be no implications for Airbus's 13,000 UK staff if the sale goes ahead. The Broughton facility in north Wales is currently the wing centre of excellence for the aircraft and has secured manufacturing for both the A380 and the A350.

However, unions will be concerned by recent moves to award work to other countries as the use of advanced composite technologies increases. Airbus Deutschland won the contract to produce the composite upper wing skins (a function previously handled by Airbus UK) in Nordenham near Hamburg and Airbus España is increasing its workshare from around 5% on previous Airbuses to 10% on the A380, (Flight International, 21-27 March).

The UK trade ministry says it has requested "an early meeting," expected this morning, with BAE chief executive Mike Turner to discuss the future of its Airbus stake.

However, the media has given the story less prominence than than could have been expected as the UK media had been giving extensive coverage to the country's first confirmed case of H5N1 avian flu when BAE officially announced the news this morning.|

Read Flight International editor Murdo Morrison's view on how the sale of BAE Systems' 20% share of Airbus to EADS coudl be good for the UK


Source: Flight International