PARIS (Reuters) - French conglomerate Lagardere (LAGA.PA) will sell its 7.5 percent stake in European aerospace group EADS EAD.PA by the end of 2013 and plans to list its 20 percent holding in pay-TV channel Canal+ by June.
Chief executive Arnaud Lagardere, also chairman of Airbus parent EADS, also said on Tuesday he would use the proceeds to reward shareholders, cut debt and make minor acquisitions.
“It is clear now with the French government and everybody inside EADS that we will leave probably, more than probably next year,” he told a conference call.
Finance head Dominique D’Hinnin said a stock market listing of Lagardere’s stake in Canal+, 80 percent-owned by French group Vivendi (VIV.PA), would depend on market conditions.
Lagardere wanted to list the stake last year but abandoned the operation just as marketing was set to begin because of market volatility following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
Lagardere has said for several years it wanted to sell non-media assets, including the Canal+ and EADS stakes, divestments seen as key to the investment case for a company whose market value has plunged 60 percent in the past five years.
In August, D’Hinnin said the Canal+ listing was the group’s top priority. Lagardere values its stake at 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion).
The company’s comment on EADS was the latest uncertainty around a Franco-German sovereign shareholder pact underpinning the group.
German carmaker Daimler (DAIGn.DE) has said it wants to exit EADS and has agreed to sell half its 15 percent direct stake this year to German state-owned development bank KfW KFW.UL.
Daimler holds voting rights of 22.5 percent in EADS, while Lagardere’s holding is complemented by a 15 percent stake held by the French state.
EADS last month called off talks with British rival BAE Systems (BAES.L) about a merger worth $45 billion. Lagardere had expressed doubts about the terms of the planned deal.
The merger hinged on France and Germany accepting a more limited role in the combined group than they wielded at EADS.[ID:nL6E8L9QLV]
“The beauty of the negotiation with BAE is that everything was on the table - Daimler selling to the German government or not,” Arnaud Lagardere said.
Key programmes at EADS - including the A350 widebody jetliner that will compete with Boeing’s (BA.N) 787 Dreamliner and the A400M military transporter - were going to plan, he said. “We have a window here where most of our projects - if not all of the projects - seem to be on track,” he said.
($1 = 0.7867 euro)
Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Dan Lalor and Christian Plumb