On June 10 the French government reiterated its formal approval of the sale of state ownership in the Arianespace launch consortium to Airbus Safran Launchers, a joint venture set up to develop and produce Europe's next-generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle.

In a statement issued following a meeting with the French defense, research and industry ministers, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Arianespace is destined “to be controlled by Airbus Safran Launchers via a transfer of Arianespace shares currently held by CNES,” the French space agency.

“Negotiations on the terms of this industrial operation will continue on this basis while respecting the usual procedures,” Valls continued. “These discussions will be conducted in close collaboration with our European partners and other actors from the French and European space industry with the common objective of writing a new page in the history of Europe's space sector.”

Formed late last year to initiate development of a next-generation successor to Europe's Ariane 5 – known as Ariane 6 – Airbus Safran Launchers currently holds a 41% stake in Arianespace, while CNES holds a little more than 34%. The new joint venture has been pushing for a quick transfer of Arianespace equity to the Airbus Safran Launchers, and negotiations have been underway for several months as to the launch consortium's value.

Arianespace, which has a major share of the global commercial launch market, lifts almost all European government payloads. However the company has yet to turn a profit, requiring around 100 million euros (US$113 million) a year in price supports from European Space Agency (ESA) member states to break even.

Although the Airbus Safran Launchers venture has been formally created, it has not yet fully integrated the Ariane production teams from Airbus Defense and Space and Safran's Snecma and Herakles motor divisions, a process that is expected to occur gradually over the remainder of this year.

Because Airbus is the primary industrial actor in Europe's launch sector, notably for the Ariane 5, it was expected to dominate the joint venture with Safran. Remarkably, however, the latter has agreed to invest 800 million euros in cash to preserve a 50% stake in the joint venture.

Safran president and CEO Philippe Petitcolin told reporters that this cash payment has not yet been made to Airbus and is still under discussion. He also said that negotiations with ESA on how much investment Airbus Safran launchers will make in the new Ariane 6 rocket have not been completed.

ESA has asked industry to fund 400 million euros in the Ariane 6 development package, which is estimated to total around 3 billion euros, excluding the launch pad that is being developed under a separate contract managed by ESA and CNES.

“In effect it's a lot of money,” Petitcolin said of the 400 million euros. “We're now discussing with ESA this particular point. It's not yet fully resolved.”

Airbus Safran Launchers, in addition to being the designer and prime contractor for the current Ariane 5 rocket and both contractor and designer of the Ariane 6 that will fly in 2020, is also prime contractor for France's M-51 strategic missile and other defense programs.

Airbus Safran Launcher officials have said the company's military portfolio accounts for more than half of its total annual revenue.