Dassault CEO dismisses French defence merger talk

ISTRES, France Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:19am EST

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ISTRES, France Dec 19 (Reuters) - Dassault Aviation's outgoing chief executive on Wednesday dismissed recent speculation of a grand merger of French aerospace and defence companies.

Laurent Dassault, a member of the family that controls the business-to-combat jet maker, was quoted in October as saying he supported a tie-up between French companies Dassault, Thales , Safran and Zodiac Aerospace.

Without referring specifically to these remarks, Dassault Aviation CEO Charles Edelstenne told reporters: "I know this idea has come from somewhere. I have a piece of advice for you: forget it."

He was speaking on the sidelines of a drone presentation in southern France.

Edelstenne is due to step down in January but is expected to remain an influential figure at Dassault Aviation, which is the largest industrial shareholder in defence electronics maker Thales.

Laurent Dassault's proposal for a broad group dubbed "France Aerospace" was never publicly embraced by the Dassault group and was widely seen as a positioning move ahead of a family debate over the succession to his father, 87-year-old Serge Dassault.

Edelstenne also said on Wednesday that Thales would name former Vivendi chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy as its new CEO on Thursday. (Reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; Writing by Tim Hepher; Editing by James Regan)

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