The board of directors has postponed a decision on key appointments and corporate governance changes at least until January. The delay is believed to be linked to concerns in the French government over the more centralized structure that is currently being prepared within the largest European aerospace group. The board met on Thursday without making any decisions.
What appears not to be in doubt are the four core positions: Arnaud Lagardère is still expected to replace Bodo Uebber as chairman; Thomas Enders will succeed Louis Gallois as CEO; Frabrice Bregier will becomeCEO, following Enders, and a German executive yet to be named will be Airbus chief operating officer, following Bregier. Candidates include CEO Lutz Bertling and Günter Butschek, Airbus’ executive VP-operations. The appointments follow a plan agreed on in 2007, which sees a French-German rotation after five years.
But Enders and others have quietly been pushing for deeper reforms, industry sources say. More functions are planned to be centralized once the new team takes over in June. Those functions are believed to include finance and human resources. Whoever will be EADS CFO could also take over responsibilities for Airbus’s finances, and the finance divisions of other subsidiaries could report directly to that position. Hans-Peter Ring was joint EADS/Airbus CFO in 2007 at the peak of theproduction crisis. Harald Wilhelm currently is Airbus CFO. Ring’s current contract expires next year.
Making headquarters more powerful appears to be hitting serious concerns on the French side, particularly because the five-year rotation is now ending. Unlike Gallois, Enders could extend his term as EADS CEO beyond the initial five years if the board approves it. Along with the strengthening of central functions, the French government appears to be concerned that the German side is gaining too much influence on the group as a whole.
The German government has already made significant economic policy changes with its landmark decision to take over part of the current Daimler stake in EADS (7.5%) through its KfW federal development bank.