MILAN (Reuters) - Finmeccanica SpA (SIFI.MI) chief Giuseppe Orsi reiterated that he would not step down from Europe's third-biggest defense group but said in a newspaper interview that he favored separating the roles of chairman and chief executive.
Orsi, the subject of a high-profile corruption probe that has cast a shadow over his position at the group, told Italian daily Il Messaggero that he had only accepted the dual role at the request of the Italian government, Finmeccanica's main shareholder.
"A group as complex as Finmeccanica needs a chairman who guarantees stability and supports the management," Orsi said in the interview published on Sunday.
"I have always believed so. Even when, at the request of the shareholder, I agreed to take on the dual role."
Orsi, chief executive of Finmeccanica, was also handed the chairmanship of Italy's flagship defense and aeronautics group last year after disgraced former chairman Pier Francesco Guarguaglini resigned as part of a corruption investigation.
The investigation widened earlier this year to include Orsi after a disgruntled former employee, himself under investigation, accused him of bribes to smooth a 560 million euro ($724.4 million) Indian helicopter contract.
Orsi, who has repeatedly denied the accusations, said the story was an invention and that the contract had been won in full respect of Indian and Italian law.
He repeated that he would quit if the government asked him to, but said he did not see any reason to leave before the approval of the 2013 results, when his mandate ends.
The technocrat government of Mario Monti has kept a low-profile stance over the issue after political parties raised questions about whether Orsi should remain at the helm.
Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli said last week the government would act in a responsible manner "if and when" it decided to step in.
An Indian defense ministry official confirmed on Thursday that Finmeccanica would deliver the first of the helicopters in the so-called VVIP Indian order by December.
Finmeccanica reported nine-month adjusted EBITA of 741 million euros, rebounding from a loss of 188 million euros a year earlier when it was hit by a heavy provision on its Boeing 787 contract.
(Reporting by Antonella Ciancio; Editing by Susan Fenton)