* EADS says taking active role in discussions
* Says no certainty talks will be conclusive
* Shareholders close to agreement -Hollande
(Adds Hollande comment)
By James Regan and Gernot Heller
PARIS, Dec 3 Shares in EADS rose on
Monday as European nations raced towards a deal aimed at
overhauling the convoluted shareholder structure at Europe's
largest aerospace group.
The Airbus parent said it was in talks on its ownership with
France, German and Spain, and people familiar with the matter
said the talks involved a sweeping re-arrangement of government
That would be coupled with a staged exit of its industrial
partners, reducing big shareholder blocks below 30 percent
instead of more than 50 percent.
"The company is participating actively in such discussions
... with the objective to preserve and enhance ... the
interests of all stakeholders," EADS said in a statement.
French President Francois Hollande said EADS shareholders
were close to a deal. "We need revamp the shareholder pact,"
Hollande told reporters after a summit with Italian Prime
Minister Mario Monti. "An agreement is close (but) it is not yet
A German economy ministry spokesman also said efforts were
under way to reach a deal as quickly as possible.
Shares in the Franco-German group rose 2.8 percent to 26.61
euros by 1516 GMT as investors warmed to the promise of greater
clarity on its shareholder structure, also helped by comments
from Airbus head Fabrice Bregier in an interview with Reuters.
Bregier said Airbus had sold almost 200 planes in November,
leaving it just four short of a target of 650 for the year, and
said the group had the potential to increase its profits on a
yearly basis for the next four to five years.
The ownership issue is crucial at EADS since the main
industrial shareholders Daimler AG and Lagardere SA
have pledged to refocus on their core activities,
placing the company's balanced structure under strain.
Germany has stepped forward to buy some of Daimler's shares,
raising concerns of growing political interference in EADS.
EADS' ownership structure has also become an urgent issue
since the collapse of $45 billion merger talks with UK arms
maker BAE Systems Plc, exposing the fragility of its
existing shareholder structure.
"The BAE discussions caused a lot of movement and
demonstrated to people like Lagardere that they could find a way
out," said a person familiar with the discussions.
The ownership talks are set to result in France and Germany
each holding 12 percent in the company, joined by Spain on
around 4 percent and keeping the combined voting block below a
30 percent legal threshold.
Germany will build its stake by buying 7.5 percent from a
bank consortium, whose shares are under Daimler's voting
control, and 4.5 percent from Daimler which will separately part
with a further 3 percent, sources close to the talks said.
That will leave Lagardere and Daimler with 7.5 percent each
left to sell, but cash-rich EADS will announce a share buyback
at the next shareholder meeting to help mop up excess stock and
defend its share price, the sources said.
French Chairman Arnaud Lagardere is expected to remain in
his post until a shareholder meeting in the spring, which is
likely to bring in a mainly independent board led by a new
chairman, the sources said.
EADS, which is due to hold an investor meeting on Monday,
said only: "The currently discussed potential changes are likely
to require the approval of EADS NV shareholders and there can be
no certainty that these discussions will be conclusive."
Two sources familiar with the discussions said on Sunday
that a deal could be reached by Monday.
Under Dutch law that governs EADS, a group of shareholders
cannot control more than 30 percent of the votes without
triggering a mandatory bid for the whole company.
Reuters reported on Friday that France and Germany were
close to a deal to shake up EADS after France agreed to hive off
part of its 15 percent stake to preserve parity with Germany
inside a core government shareholder group.
Under this arrangement, France is expected to place 3
percent in a non-voting structure in the Netherlands, while
keeping economic control of the stock.
A German newspaper report said talks were also looking at
what level of state representation there could be on the
company's board, with suggestions of two places each for France
and Germany and one for Spain.
(Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson in Berlin, with
Alexander Huebner and Ed Taylor in Frankfurt, Emmanuel Jarry and
James Regan in Paris, and Michael Shields in Vienna; Editing by
Blaise Robinson and David Holmes)