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Sarkozy Says France Will One Day Sell EADS Stake


France will play an active role in solving the crisis at aerospace group EADS but will eventually sell its holding, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told workers at the headquarters of planemaking unit Airbus on Friday.

Underscoring his commitment to helping the recovery at EADS two days after taking office, Sarkozy said France would one day sell its 15% stake and would not renationalize the company.

"The state will do its task if there is a need for a capital increase, with the aim to one day putting the state's stake on the market. The aim is not a partial nationalization of EADS," Sarkozy said, standing by the policy of the previous government to eventually unload the state's holding.

"When it goes well again with the company, we could separate us from it," he added.

Sarkozy was speaking at the headquarters of Airbus at Toulouse in southwest France, after taking office on Wednesday and meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin later that day.

His presence underlined the importance of the industrial troubles at Airbus and he said he was convinced he could find an agreement with Merkel over the future of EADS and its Airbus planemaking subsidiary.

The group which has operations in four European countries plans to cut 10,000 jobs at its plants and suppliers to reduce its cost base in the face of a weak dollar and after costly delays to the A380 superjumbo.

Balanced Approach

EADS has a Franco-German management structure and tries to evenly balance work and cost cuts over its constituent four nations.

"I found in the German Chancellor someone who has perfectly understood that we need to act fast. I am convinced that together we will find an agreement," he said.

"We cannot blame her for defending her country. But there is no quarrel between countries. What I want is that it works," he said after meeting labour unions with Airbus chairman Louis Gallois and the new economy, finance and work minister, Jean-Louis Borloo.

Sarkozy said there would soon be a meeting of representatives of France and Germany and of EADS shareholders Daimler and Lagardere.

Daimler has a 22.5% stake in EADS, Lagardere holds 7.5% and the French state has 15%.

He said he did not believe the current shareholder pact of EADS could continue.

Sarkozy said the weak dollar was working in the favor of Airbus rival Boeing , as plane contracts are signed in the U.S. currency.

"I have this question in my mind, but I cannot put everything on the table right now. With a euro at $1.35, and in my opinion that is not finished yet, how can we solve it?"

"It's a problem but there are other problems to deal with first," Sarkozy added. He said he planned to return to Toulouse, with Merkel, in early July.