French assertions that the four partners of the Airbus Industrie consortium have reached agreement on the future shape of the company have been denied strongly in Germany and the UK.

Aerospatiale president Yves Michot claims that the four company presidents, meeting on 26/27 May, had agreed on "a new, coherent concept for re-organisation" based around the original French idea that the restructuring should leave Airbus "responsible only for management of programmes".

He also says that the restructuring should not include the assets of each partner, such as production plant, design departments and research centres. The Aerospatiale boss says that the future Airbus company should take the form of an Anglo/Dutch conglomerate such as Shell or Unilever, giving it a mandate to ensure synergies between the respective companies, but having no control over assets.

Partners British Aerospace and Daimler Benz Aerospace (Dasa)insist that "-no agreement has been reached", but that discussions are still taking place with the aim of finding ways in which their "...different proposals can be harmonised with those of Aerospatiale". They stress that Airbus can only be competitive with Boeing if it becomes a stand-alone limited liability company.

A memorandum of understanding signed by the four partners in January calling for Airbus to become a "single European aerospace and defence company" remains the only official point of agreement. "We have made it clear that Airbus must come under a single management to compete with Boeing", says BAe. "We always knew it would be difficult, but we remain committed to the MoU objectives".

Meanwhile, Aerospatiale's future as a privatised company looks increasingly uncertain, with the French prime minister Lionel Jospin due to outline the new socialist Government's plans for the aerospace industry at the end of the Paris air show.

Doubts are also surfacing about the planned merger with Dassault Aviation. Michot says that there is still "strong interest" in the merger, and that all of the structural details have been completed. Dassault president Serge Dassault insists, however, that there will be no merger if Aerospatiale remains state-owned.

Michot says that he still hopes that a wider French alliance will emerge from the Thomson-CSF privatisation, where Aerospatiale is linked with the Alcatel/Dassault bid for the defence-electronics giant. He says that Thomson-CSF's missiles operations and Alcatel's satellites activities both have strong synergies with Aerospatiale's existing businesses.

Michot adds that such a grouping would help to balance the planned alliance between Dasa, BAe and Lagardère, which is also bidding in the Thomson-CSF privatisation.

Source: Flight International