EADS has today assumed sole ownership of Airbus after BAE Systems formally completed the sale of its 20% stake in the European aircraft manufacturer for €2.75 billion ($3.45 billion) some 27 years after the UK joined the consortium.

It ends a process dating back to April when the UK manufacturer confirmed it was in talks to sell the stake. BAE later exercised a put option on the stake and when no agreement could be reached with EADS on price, independent arbiters were appointed to set the price.

While the €2.75 billion figure was far less than BAE Systems had originally wanted, BAE’s board last month opted to go ahead with the sale citing Airbus’ challenging short to medium-term outlook after carrying out an audit of the company. BAE shareholders overwhelmingly backed the disposal at an extraordinary general meeting earlier this month.

“BAE Systems announces that today it completed the disposal of the Airbus Shareholding,” the UK firm confirms in a brief statement.

The deal means EADS, which paid in cash from existing resources of the group, is now the sole owner of Airbus.

The formal announcement came only hours after French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated their support for the crisis-hit European manufacturer during a Franco-German ministers meeting in Paris.

The political leaders discussed Airbus’ difficulties during the seventh council of Franco-German ministers in Paris yesterday. Airbus’ recent troubles include a third tranche of delays to the A380 programme, the need for a major restructuring and the departure of CEO Christian Streiff.

Speaking during a media briefing following the meeting, Chirac said: “There has been a crisis and a problem, that’s true, which is more of a problem of organisation than a problem of competence. This organisational problem has been regulated.”

Chirac and Merkel stressed their ongoing confidence in the manufacturer and complimented parent firm EADS’ quick response to the difficulties. Merkel adds that the two countries have shown their backing for a speedy resolution, which will enable Airbus to re-focus on its future.

Merkel says German firm Daimler Chrysler, which owns 22.5% of EADS, intends to continue with strategic responsibilities towards EADS. But she adds that Germany is looking at all options to maintain an equal weight in the shareholder structure between Germany and France.

She says: “If there were to be a share transfer, I have said clearly to the French president that, for us, it is essential that we find shareholders which feel fully responsible for EADS and Airbus. To avoid any ambiguity, no decision has been taken.

“Moreover, we cannot get involved in some processes, even in the name of the Federal Government. There is a close co-operation between the ministries for economy and finance and the Chancellery, which will result in decisions concerning the German involvement in Airbus remaining current, as in the past.”

Both leaders expressed their concern for the impact of Airbus’ restructuring on the workers at the firm’s various manufacturing plants. But Chirac says he is confident the restructuring, to be undertaken by new Airbus CEO Louis Gallois, will be even-handed between the two states.

He says: “The restructuring must be harmoniously divided between the two principal sites, I am talking about Hamburg and Toulouse, naturally taking account of the interests of all of the subcontractors which work in Germany and France on the Airbus project.”

Airbus parent company EADS’ is 22.5%-owned by German firm DaimlerChrysler Aerospace. The French state owns 15% of EADS through SOGEPA, while France’s Lagardere owns further 7.5%.

Source: FlightGlobal.com