Julian Moxon/MADRID

CASA has joined the European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) company only seven weeks after the merger of Aerospatiale Matra and Daimler-Chrysler Aerospace (Dasa).

The addition of the Spanish company as a founding member of the grouping is seen as a logical step after the announcement in June of the Dasa/CASA merger. It takes EADS' revenues to c20.3 billion ($20.5 billion), placing it third in the world aerospace league after Boeing ($50 billion) and Lockheed Martin ($23 billion).

The move also establishes a single grouping which together holds 80% of the workshare in Airbus Industrie - the balance is held by BAE Systems. The deal eases the path to the creation of a single corporate entity for Airbus and launch of the 550-seat A3XX airliner.

The structure of EADS is now made up of a 65% combined industry/government share, with the remaining 35% to be floated on the open market once the European Commission has approved the merger. The majority stake is to be placed with a Netherlands-registered holding company in which a "French pooling company" and DASA each hold 47.5%, the remaining 8.5% going to SEPI, the Spanish Government entity that owns CASA.

The French component is made up of the government, with 50%, Lagardère (37%) and private French institutions (13%).

Manfred Bischoff, one of the two EADS chairmen, with Jean-Luc Lagardère, says the new company is "ready and open for further consolidation", adding that "we are in continuous discussions with BAE and Alenia about the future".

The part to be played by Alenia is one of the few remaining issues to be resolved in the restructuring of European industry. While Bischoff was in Madrid for the CASA signing, however, BAE chief executive John Weston was in Italy talking to government ministers and Alenia parent Finmeccanica about tying up a deal to merge the remaining parts of the Italian aerospace business not already allied with UK interests - principally BAE and GKN Westland.

Bischoff says EADS "now has the muscle to fight for increased market share across the range of civil and military programmes".

The next step is almost certain to be the consolidation of Airbus into a single corporate entity. EADS chief executive Philippe Camus says: "We're talking to BAE about forming an Airbus company. It has said it is in favour - but we can't say when. It will be very soon, because that decision must be taken in line with launch of the A3XX."

In a further development, CASA president Alberto Fernandez says his company has an "agreement in principle" to increase its stake in the A3XX to "around 10%", involving Spain in at least $1.2 billion of development funding. The move is being seen as the first step towards a possible increase in CASA's 4.2% stake in the new Airbus company.

• The Airbus supervisory board is expected to give its preliminary authorisation to offer the A3XX to a small number of airlines as the precursor to a full commercial launch early next year.

Decisions have been taken on key technical and commercial aspects of the programme, which are being put to the board for approval.

Speculation continues about the A3XX final assembly site, with Toulouse thought likely to be the front runner - but only if it gives up to Hamburg final assembly of all single-aisle aircraft.

Source: Flight International