* Shareholders agreement on new structure -sources
* Announcement due after market close
* France says Franco-German parity key goal
* EADS expected to launch 2.5-3 bln euros share buyback
(Adds final agreement, quote, post-buyback shares)
By Tim Hepher and Sophie Sassard
PARIS/LONDON, Dec 5 Shareholders in EADS
reached final agreement on a radical shake-up of the
European aerospace group and an announcement was due later on
Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
By abolishing a Franco-German shareholder pact, public and
private shareholders are on the verge of the biggest shake-up of
control since the maker of Airbus passenger planes, Ariane
rockets and Eurofighter combat jets was founded in 2000.
"The signature and the announcement are imminent," one of
the people said, asking not to be identified.
EADS declined commment.
The deal follows days of intensive talks in Paris between
European governments, banks and industrial shareholders.
Analysts say the changes will simplify EADS' structure and
give the financial markets a bigger slice of Europe's largest
aerospace firm. They come weeks after talks broke down to merge
the group with UK defence contractor BAE Systems.
France and Germany have agreed to control 12 percent each of
the voting rights, handing Berlin a direct stake in the Airbus
parent company for the first time. Spain will also have a stake
of around 4 percent.
French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said earlier
keeping a balance between French and German interests in
Europe's largest aerospace group was a priotity.
"The talks are obviously taking place in a discreet, even
secret manner, with a main goal to protect the interests and the
Franco-German parity, a balance which is fundamental for us,"
Moscovici told the French National Assembly.
Until now parity in EADS - originally formed from a merger
of French, German and Spanish interests - has been ensured
through a complex pact between the French state, French media
firm Lagardere and German car firm Daimler.
Discussions dragged out for days over the technicalities of
the accord, which is expected t o call for France to park 3
percent of EADS in a non-voting foundation in the Netherlands.
The manoeuvre is designed to maintain voting parity with
Germany while allowing France to keep the economic value of its
full 15 percent stake in the European company.
There were also discussions over the mechanisms for German
auto group Daimler and French media conglomerate
Lagardere to sell shares they have held as proxies for
their respective governments.
As Lagardere sells, the parties need to decide who would
take over from Arnaud Lagardere as EADS chairman. Serving civil
servants are expected to be excluded from a radically altered
board dominated by independent members.
While the shake-up increases direct state shareholdings,
they will be held inside a smaller tent without proxy industrial
shareholders. Government powers will also be curbed.
French, German and Spanish shareholdings will initially fall
to s ome 28 percent f rom 50.5 percent under the current
power-sharing scheme, which will be wound up, sources have said.
Daimler currently owns 15 percent of EADS and votes for
another 7.5 percent held by a consortium. In the shake-up, the
German government is expected to buy 12 percent, leaving Daimler
to sell the rest progressively.
Lagardere owns 7.5 percent, which it is expected to sell.
The timing of the industrial sales remained unclear but
legal experts say there could be a bridging period during which
the companies would stay behind as part of the market float.
Cash-rich EADS is expected to launch a share buyback to
cushion the share price, which has risen this week on optimism
that the reorganization would reduce the role of politics in one
Europe's most strategic firms and a rival to Boeing.
A source close to the deal said this could be worth 2.5 to 3
billion euros, to be adopted at the next shareholder meeting.
EADS currently has a mandate to buy back up to 10 percent.
After the buyback, shares would be cancelled and government
shareholdings would rise to 29.9 percent, narrowly missing a 30
percent threshhold at which block shareholders must bid for
EADS, the source said.
EADS shares were up 2.7 percent in late trading.
(Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze, Dominique Vidalon,
Gernot Heller; Editing by Jane Barrett, Christian Plumb and