Senior French industry figures are warning that the state must allow the privatisation of key defence assets if it is not to be left behind as Europe's defence-aerospace companies restructure.

Marcel Roulet, chairman of French defence-electronics giant Thomson-CSF, effectively pleaded with the National Assembly's defence committee on 2 July to allow the planned sale of the state-held company to go ahead.

The recently elected socialist French Government has stalled privatisation plans for Thomson-CSF, saying that it wants to consider the strategic aspects of such a move before any decision is made.

Roulet is warning that it cannot take too long to make up its mind, because"-Thomson-CSF risks being encircled if it is excluded from European restructuring".

Roulet's sentiments were echoed by Aerospatiale chairman Yves Michot, who also addressed the committee. "The building of a European aeronautical entity cannot be achieved with state ownership in France," he warned.

Source: Flight International