The situation mirrors a Bastille Day impasse in 1999 when French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin vetoed the creation of EADS without French state shares. Today Germany wants its own role, beyond any influence it may have tried to exert through Daimler.
Negotiating in complete secrecy, EADS’ founders managed 13 years ago to square the circle with an unusual pact. Its job: to erect a screen between the French state and a skeptical Daimler.
A system of boxes surrounding the French government investment left civil servants some powers while giving Daimler and Lagardere final say on key matters like board nominations.
It is the vulnerability of these core arrangements - both companies seem keen to cash in their stakes - as much as short-term market or regulatory pressure, that could eventually persuade quarrelling governments and industrialists to cling together to find a way out of the current deadlock.
“The governments face a dilemma,” said a person who has participated directly in similar European-wide negotiations.
“They can hold onto rights which are provisional and subject to Daimler and Lagardere remaining, or they can exchange these rights against permanent ones enshrined in a special share.”
Similar to golden shares, the special shares would let Britain, France and Germany block takeovers, replacing another of the current pact’s functions in protecting EADS.
A350 EXIT SEAT
If the BAE deal falls through, shareholders attuned to the next opportunity for structural change will at once set their calendars to the first flight of Europe’s newest passenger jet, the Airbus A350, which is scheduled for the middle of 2013.