Austrian chancellor calls for out-of-court settlement in dispute with Airbus

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Austrian chancellor calls for out-of-court settlement in dispute with Airbus

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VIENNA (Reuters) – Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has called for an out-of-court resolution with Airbus <AIR.PA> in connection with a fraud probe over a $2 billion Eurofighter jet order placed more than a decade ago. Austrian prosecutors are investigating Airbus, its Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders and the Eurofighter consortium, including Britain’s BAE Systems <BAES.L> and Italy’s Leonardo <LDOF.MI>, for possible deception and fraud linked to the 2003 jet order. Airbus, Enders and the consortium deny any wrongdoing. “We now have constructive elements ‎to come into talks with Airbus,” Kern told German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview published on Thursday. “We will seek an out-of-court resolution.” Kern said that in his time in business he had learnt it was always better to avoid court decisions, adding that both parties would have an interest in that. Kern did not elaborate on what those elements were. His spokesman, when asked about it, declined to comment. He would also not say whether any talks had been agreed on. Airbus, which has complained that the row was politically motivated and undermining the reputation of the European aerospace industry, also declined to comment. Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil, who decided to end the Eurofighter programme early amid the row earlier this month, said: “We will not close ourselves off, should Airbus be seriously interested in providing reparations for damage caused out of court.” Earlier on Thursday Airbus announced a one-third slump in operating profit in the first half of 2017 on flat revenue following delays in engine deliveries for its upgraded A320neo jetliners. It was not immediately clear why Kern made his proposal now, but a second parliamentary committee into the Eurofighter deal ended earlier this month and is expected to deliver its report in the autumn. Austria is gearing up for a parliamentary election in October and opinion polls suggest Kern, who like Doskozil belongs to the Social Democrats, could be replaced as chancellor by Sebastian Kurz of the centre-right People’s Party.

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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