March 27, 2013
Shareholders have backed sweeping changes at aerospace group EADS, tearing up a Franco-German ownership pact in favour of rules its leaders hailed as “emancipation” from political interference.
Shareholders in the Airbus parent also approved a maximum buyback of 15 percent of the group’s shares, worth 5.1 billion euros ($6.6 billion) at current prices, but Chief Executive Tom Enders indicated he would not make use of the entire allocation after recent price gains.
“Good luck to you, Tom, you are in the driver’s seat - not an easy task, but so far so good,” outgoing chairman Arnaud Lagardere told Enders from the platform after shareholders on Wednesday backed the biggest shake-up since EADS was founded in 2000.
Created from a merger of French, German and Spanish assets with strict controls on management independence, Boeing Co rival EADS has been seen as a stage for Franco-German industrial tensions at various points, most notably when the A380 superjumbo went over budget.
Enders said the new rules would limit government involvement to the role of regulator or customer, handing management independence despite the fact that core government stakes are rising to 28 percent from 20 percent to help unravel the pact.
Changes include a majority-independent board to be led by former Thales CEO Denis Ranque.
Lagardere paid tribute to his father, the late French industrialist Jean-Luc Lagardere, as well as the leaders of German carmaker Daimler who jointly formed Europe’s largest aerospace company and secured Franco-German support.
He also lavished praise on Enders, who he said would be given “the keys of this huge company” through the transition.