New EADS Top Team Pledges to Tackle Airbus Problems

European defense group EADS vowed Monday to put Franco-German management tensions behind it and resolve the crisis at Airbus, the day after the French CEO and the civil jet unit's German head lost their jobs in a much-anticipated shake-up.

"We'll work hard and we'll work jointly to bring EADS back on course," former co-Chief Executive Noel Forgeard's replacement Louis Gallois said in a joint statement with German co-CEO Tom Enders, who survived the reshuffle.

Politicians and trade unions welcomed the changes at EADS, announced Sunday, in which Airbus CEO Gustav Humbert was also forced to step down, and replaced by Frenchman Christian Streiff - a former executive with building materials maker Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy hailed Streiff as "the right man for the job," and Germany Economic Minister Michael Glos said the changes mean Airbus can now "concentrate fully on business challenges."

Shares in European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. fell as much as 2.5 percent, however, after N.M. Rothschild published a valuation of Airbus that was on the low side of expectations. By early afternoon, the stock had recovered to $28.43 in Paris, 0.5 percent below Friday's close.

EADS owns 80 percent of Airbus, and the investment bank had been called in to arbitrate after Britain's BAE Systems, which owns the remaining 20 percent, exercised an option to sell the stake to EADS and the two companies failed to agree on a price. Rothschild valued the stake at $3.5 billion, EADS announced Monday.

In London, BAE Systems PLC shares fell 3.2 percent to $6.59.

In their joint statement, the two EADS co-CEOs said Airbus was the company's "immediate priority."

The crisis at the defense group followed its announcement last month that the Airbus A380 superjumbo was likely to suffer fresh delays of up to seven months.

The revelation caused EADS shares to plunge 26 percent on June 14, and France's Financial Markets Authority said it was investigating Forgeard and five other directors who sold EADS stock just weeks before the company ordered an internal assessment of the production problems.

Forgeard denies insider dealing and maintained in a statement Sunday that his departure had nothing to do with the share sales.

Airbus is also expected to announce a redesign of its planned A350 mid-sized jet - billed as a rival to the twin-engined, fuel-efficient Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner - at the Farnborough Air Show in Britain later this month.

Observers say the upgrade would be likely to push the plane's entry into service back to about 2012 - two years behind its original target date and four years behind the 787.


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