Airbus wins board spat with Spain, to renew CEO

Wed May 27, 2015 3:01pm EDT
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By Tim Hepher

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Airbus Group AIR.PA faced down a revolt by government shareholders over a board appointment and invited its chief executive to stay on until 2019 as Europe's largest aerospace company consolidated a recent push for political independence.

Europe's largest aerospace group, whose shareholders include the Spanish, French and German governments, won shareholder support for its choice of Spanish board candidate despite what sources described as behind-the-scenes opposition from Madrid.

But the relatively narrow margin of support for Maria Amparo Moraleda Martinez, with 40.4 percent of the shares represented at an annual meeting cast against the former IBM executive, indicated a common front by all three shareholder nations.

France and Germany own 11 percent each of Airbus Group and Spain controls 4.1 percent. About two thirds of the company's shares were represented at Wednesday's meeting, which also saw the company reaffirm upbeat business forecasts.

Shares in Airbus Group closed up 2.8 percent.

Airbus Group Chairman Denis Ranque hailed Moraleda's credentials as the company seeks to import experience from high-tech industries, but the vote became snared in the remnants of previous power battles between Airbus and founder nations.

It was only the second test of a 2012 agreement to curb the influence of the three government stakeholders, but one that Boeing's BA.N European rival appeared determined to win.

Headed by independent-minded former paratrooper Tom Enders, Airbus had blocked the French government's choice of chairperson immediately after the governance reforms in 2012.   Continued...

People are silhouetted past a logo of the Airbus Group during the Airbus annual news conference in Colomiers, near Toulouse January 13, 2015. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau