FRANKFURT Airbus (AIR.PA) is considering a sale of its 49 percent stake in submarine supplier Atlas Elektronik as part of a reshuffle of its military business, German newspaper Die Welt reported on its website on Friday, citing industry sources.
Aerospace and defense group Airbus - then called EADS - and German industrial group ThyssenKrupp (TKAG.DE) jointly bought Atlas Elektronik from BAE Systems (BAES.L) in 2005, beating out France's Thales (TCFP.PA).
Die Welt said Airbus was to make a decision on a sale of its stake in the coming months. ThyssenKrupp likely has a right of first refusal, it said.
Airbus declined to comment and ThyssenKrupp said it would not comment on speculation. Atlas said it was up to its owners to comment on the report.
The news comes only days after Germany's economy minister told the country's arms industry that its future lay in consolidation with European peers, as Berlin becomes more cautious on arms exports.
Atlas Elektronik - which makes a range of products for submarines ranging from combat systems to torpedoes, marine minesweepers and communication systems - generated about a third of its 2013 sales of 441 million euros ($584 million) outside Europe, according to Die Welt.
The paper speculated that Thales could launch a fresh approach if Airbus decided to sell its stake, having lost out in 2005 due to political resistance to a foreign firm becoming part-owner in a German defense business.
While governments and industry agree on the rationale for consolidation in the European defense industry, in practice governments often find deals unpalatable for security or domestic political considerations.
Thales declined to comment on the matter.
($1 = 0.7555 euro)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Additional reporting by Dominique Rodriguez in Paris; Editing by Michael Urquhart)