Europe’s largest defence company, BAE Systems, has said it want to sell its stake in planemaker Airbus to the other main shareholder EADS.
BAE said it felt the time was right to do that, in order to concentrate on its core transatlantic defence and aerospace business.
A sale would leave EADS in full control of Airbus.
Currently it owns 80% and BAE has 20%. The stake is valued at 3.5 billion euros in EADS’ accounts, but analysts say the sale price could be as much as 6.5 billion euros.
BAE’s announcement followed news earlier in the week that two major EADS shareholders, German-US carmaker DaimlerChrysler and French defence and media group Lagardere, were substantially cutting their holdings.
Lagadere will half its stake to 7.5% and DaimlerChrysler will reduce its shareholding from 30% to 22.5%.
In response to concerns expressed by British unions, BAE, EADS and Airbus said that this will make no difference to the company’s 13,000 workers in the UK who make wings and other plane components.
BAE is expected to invest the proceeds from the sale in its rapidly growing US defence operations.