France Selling $618 Million Stake in Airbus to Institutions

Jan 16, 2014 4:58 pm ET

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- France is selling a 455 million euro ($618 million) stake in Airbus Group NV to institutional investors.

About 8.03 million shares, or 1 percent of the aircraft maker, are being offered in a range of 56 euros and the market price, according to the terms of the deal obtained by Bloomberg News. Following the sale, the the French, German and Spanish governments will own a minimum of 26 percent of Airbus’s voting stock, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said in an e- mailed statement.

France is reducing its ownership of Airbus as part of an agreement to cut the direct influence of the French, German, and Spanish governments over the company. Reached in the wake of a failed merger with defense contractor BAE Systems Plc, the December 2012 shareholder accord is a step toward Airbus becoming a “normal” company guided by market forces, Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders has said.

The stake is valued at 455 million euros at today’s closing price of 56.64 euros. Shares of Airbus, one of the world’s largest makers of commercial jetliners, climbed about 76 percent in the past year.

The French government, which is selling the stake through its Societé de Gestion de Participations Aéronautiques, or Sogepa, unit joins sellers including Sweden’s Vattenfall AB and CVC Capital Partners Ltd. that are paring their stakes in European companies after investors returned to the region’s markets in 2013.

Societe Generale SA is managing today’s sale, according to terms of the deal. A spokesman for Airbus declined to comment.

Additional share sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa raised about $116 billion in 2013, more than double what was sold in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

--With assistance from Robert Wall in London. Editors: Mohammed Hadi, Elizabeth Wollman