Chatter about the delicate issue of EADS ownership rose in volume on reports that Daimler wants the German government to relieve it of at least some of the burden of the country's France-balancing equity interest in Europe's aerospace champion. Formally, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars - a founder of EADS from its more-diversified days - intends to retain "industrial leadership" of the 22.5% German stake.

But all signals point to a bid to sell half its 15% stake to Berlin, which would hold 15% after also buying out a group of banks that agreed some years ago to take, temporarily, a 7.5% share from the automotive group.

For Daimler and the banks, selling makes sense. EADS is not core business and, with stock markets riding a bear rally, the price is good. But markets are threatening to turn any time and uncertainty will hang over EADS shares until the Airbus A350 gets off the ground, so private German buyers are not interested. And within the German government, nationalisation is strongly opposed, so the likely outcome is no change - unless Berlin decides it does not need to keep any fixed percentage of EADS within the Federal Republic.

After all, not for nothing is Germany perhaps the world's most powerful industrial economy. If Berlin withdrew, Airbus work would not drift away to the USA, China, India or even France; chances are, more of it would gravitate to this global centre of excellence.

Source: Flight International