EADS shares surge as shake-up deal nears

EADS, the parent company of aircraft maker Airbus, said Monday that it would protect shareholders' interests as talks towards a vast corporate revamp continued, helping to push the company's share price sharply higher.

In a statement, EADS, the European aerospace giant, confirmed press reports "that key shareholders are discussing potential changes in the company shareholding structure and corporate governance."

"The company is participating actively in such discussions... with the objective to preserve and enhance, where appropriate, the interests of all stakeholders, including shareholders, clients and employees."

Talk of an imminent shake-up deal helped shares in the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) jump by 2.14 percent to 26.44 euros on Monday, while the Paris CAC 40 index of leading shares gained a much more modest 0.26 percent.

Traders were cheered by the EADS assurance to protect shareholders, which was read as a signal that the company -- which is sitting on an 8.0-billion-euro ($10.4-billion) cash war chest -- would soon buy back some of its shares.

Conglomerate Lagardere of France and German automaker Daimler have made it known they wish to leave EADS, in which each company holds a stake of 12.5 percent.

But the imminent exits by Lagardere and Daimler upend a corporate structure carefully negotiated in 2000 by France, Germany and Spain to preserve national interests in a sensitive sector.

Reports in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal said that EADS was planning a vast share-buyback programme to fill the shoes left by Lagardere and Daimler, which represented France and Germany respectively on the EADS board.

Knowledgeable sources told AFP that after the revamp, France and Germany would each hold 12 percent of a newly structured EADS.

A board meeting was held on Sunday to continue talks on a deal, sources said, adding that an announcement was imminent.

French President Francois Hollande, on the sidelines of a Franco-Italian summit, said that "a deal was close", but that it was "not yet completely signed".

A source told the French financial newspaper La Tribune that "owing to the large number of parties concerned and lawyers seated at the table, everything was not able to be tied up" on Monday, but that an announcement would be made after financial markets closed on Tuesday.

In October, a deal to merge EADS and British group BAE Systems and which appeared set to create the world's biggest aerospace and defence company fell through owing to unexpectedly strong opposition from Germany.

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