From the time Europe’s first carbon jetliner takes off, speculation is likely to swirl around the 7.5-percent stake held by Lagardere, whose chief executive has committed to stay on board EADS only until the risky plane project is finalized.
The timing of a sale has been left deliberately vague, with the plane’s first delivery not expected until the second half of the following year and market prices certain to play a role.
When it does happen, events could cascade quickly inside the pact which is a Russian doll of nested agreements, according to industry specialists and a Reuters analysis of available texts.
The first fuse to pop could be a mini-pact applying solely to the French partners, which places a floor on the proportion of the French core stakes to be held by the state and Lagardere.
Secondly, a frustrated Daimler has for months been seeking ways to sell some of its shares to the German state without blowing up the very Franco-German pact it helped design; it is unlikely to pass up any chance to sell when Lagardere opts out.
After a decade that saw significant birth pangs to the A380 superjumbo, both companies want to focus on core businesses -- notably media for Lagardere and vehicle making for Daimler.
Even without the first rule, the larger pact would collapse once Daimler fell below a 10-percent holding in EADS unless the French government also were to sell some of its shares, which it has so far refused to do.
It is hard to predict what would happen next, but experts say it suggests turbulence for governments, EADS and investors.
Without the pact, alternative takeover defences may have to be cobbled together and France would keep a separate veto over matters relating to EADS production of nuclear missiles for the French military. But other special rights for pact members, like helping shape acquisitions or industrial strategy, would vanish, leaving the government with a strake but less clout than before.
After a bruising battle over BAE, France and Germany would find themselves badly misaligned, raising doubts over whether Germany would give up its quest for an equal stake. Worse, past divisions have filtered into the company hampering governance.