Airbus offers Poland joint ventures, no urgency in share stake

Tue Sep 2, 2014 1:38pm EDT
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By Wiktor Szary

KIELCE Poland (Reuters) - Airbus Group (AIR.PA: Quote) is interested in setting up joint ventures to support the Polish defense industry but has downplayed the question of Warsaw taking a direct shareholding in the European aerospace group.

In December, the Polish government said it would consider buying a stake in Airbus Group, then known as EADS. Polish media have said the east European country is interested in taking a 1-2 percent stake in Toulouse, France-based Airbus Group.

Talk of integration expanded in July when the head of the company's helicopters division told Reuters that Poland could become Airbus's fifth core nation alongside Britain, France, Germany and Spain, in a partnership designed in part to support its bid for a military helicopter contract.

"The invitation was to join the Airbus Group but not immediately with some stake in it. The story of (Poland's) stake is really marginal, this is not the most obvious way or the most key way to enter the Airbus Group," Fabrice Lievin, Airbus Vice President for Industrial Globalization said on Tuesday.

"Getting a stake is not the best way; even the Polish government understood it's not the best way. They themselves have to construct (new state defense holding company) PGZ, to make some rationalization," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the MSPO Polish defense show.

"It's not what is at stake in the future, it's about Poland restructuring its industry and us helping them. It can go many ways, for example joint ventures - so there is a capital link, but it's on a project to project basis. It (the shareholder stake) could be a symbol, but it's not what is important."

Airbus Group is competing with Sikorsky of the United States, a unit of United Technologies (UTX.N: Quote), and AgustaWestland, owned by Italy's Finmeccanica SIFI.MI for a deal to supply 70 military transport helicopters.

It is the world's largest active military helicopter competition and its value is estimated around $3 billion.   Continued...

A man makes a phone call next to the logo of Airbus Group during the e-Aircraft Day at the Bordeaux Merignac airport, southwestern France, April 25, 2014.   REUTERS/Regis Duvignau