* Moscovici sees "major role" for ex-Areva chief at EADS
* Comments reinforce calls to make Lauvergeon board chief
* Lauvergeon, Trichet also to represent France on EADS board
* Board lobbying risks clash with EADS over independence
By Cyril Altmeyer and Tim Hepher
PARIS, Jan 28 France has stepped up support for
Anne Lauvergeon as the potential new chairwoman of EADS
, injecting fresh uncertainty into efforts to free the
European aerospace group's top management from state
Finance minister Pierre Moscovici said on Monday the former
head of nuclear power group Areva could play a "major
role" in Airbus owner EADS, where she is due to represent French
government interests alongside former European Central Bank
President Jean-Claude Trichet.
"She will be at EADS as a board member: that is already
decided because the the (French) state can nominate two people
and has chosen Anne Lauvergeon and Jean-Claude Trichet,"
Moscovici told France Info radio.
"Let us respect the governance structures of the company ...
but it seems to me that she has all the necessary qualities to
play a major role at EADS in view of her energy and industrial
The comments come just seven weeks after France and Germany
struck a deal to rebalance their stakes in EADS while freeing
the company's management from day-to-day interference.
EADS declined to comment on Moscovici's remarks, but
analysts said they would test the solidity of the new
shareholder agreements on two fronts.
Firstly, the agreement does not allow either the French or
German government to nominate the chairman of EADS, where the
appointment process is being run by an independent director.
Secondly, although France and Germany are represented by a
total of four seats on the 12-person board, the nominations are
taken from a list technically put forward by EADS itself -- a
nuance which risks being swept overboard in the shake-up.
Chief Executive Tom Enders included Lauvergon on a list of
acceptable French representatives submitted to the government on
Friday, but analysts question how easily the two would work
together if she added the role of chairwoman.
"It is a political affair. It seems there is some state
interference which is not necessarily in line with what we might
have expected from the new governance structure," said aerospace
industry analyst Christophe Menard at Kepler Securities.
Despite the board tremors which began at the weekend, EADS
shares rose 0.8 percent to 35.05 euros.
Investors have driven the EADS share price up to levels not
seen since 2006 as the new shareholder agreement gets rid of a
raft of wider restrictions on the group's freedom to operate and
increases the free float of shares in the market to 70 percent
from 50 percent.
However, the mechanism for choosing a board is central to
EADS efforts to ditch political influence and guarantees several
days of feverish behind-the-scenes activity.
"Everything depends on how Enders manages to manoeuvre. The
game is not yet over," Kepler's Menard said.
A French industrial source who asked not to be named
expressed "horror" at what the source perceived as a campaign to
install Lauvergeon, disrupting the agreed nomination process.
"It is a political bid for the EADS board," the source said.
French newspaper La Tribune said the probable arrival of
Lauvergeon, a forceful personality with strong links to the
ruling Socialist government, had driven EADS to "boiling point".
However, Lauvergeon, nicknamed "Atomic Anne" after her
leadership of Areva, where she was ousted by the previous French
government in 2011, has many political and industrial admirers.
A person close to the former Mitterrand aide said last week
that she was not running any campaign for EADS, but had the
qualities to take on new responsibilities if asked. Lauvergeon
has been linked unsuccessfully with several top jobs.
French President Francois Hollande is seen unlikely to back
Lauvergeon to the point of open conflict with EADS so soon after
peace broke out at the faction-ridden company, leaving her fate
somewhat dependent on the reaction of the EADS board.
Moscovici meanhile raised doubts over the role of Philippe
Camus, the chairman of technology group Alcatel-Lucent
who is said to have independent backing to become EADS's
Camus has "a lot to do at Alcatel," Moscovici said. "It's a
company which is not always in an easy situation and which
represents substantial economic interests."
Camus helped found EADS from a merger of French, German and
Spanish aerospace companies in 2000, but was pushed out as
co-chief executive five years later after a management coup
backed by then French president Jacques Chirac.