LONDON — Defence Minister Philip Hammond warned Oct. 7 that Britain could use its “golden share” to block a planned merger between EADS and BAE if France and Germany do not reduce their stakes to below a level that could give them some control over the future company.
“We have made very clear that we do have red lines around the BAE-EADS merger and that if they can’t be satisfied, then we will use our special share to veto the deal,” he told BBC Radio. “It is not, I think, necessary to have no French or German interest in the company. It is necessary to reduce that stake below the level at which it can control or direct the way the company acts.”
The merger would create an aerospace and defense giant with access to virtually all the world’s markets, dwarfing even the U.S. firm Boeing.
But Britain, Germany and France must approve the transaction in view of its strategic implications.
According to a source close to EADS, Germany has reached an agreement with its two partners to acquire a 9 percent stake in the future firm, the same level as France, but halted talks while demanding the EADS headquarters be housed there.
Another source close to the talks said discussions were at an impasse because Paris was refusing to commit in writing that it would not seek to acquire more than a 9 percent stake. France currently has a 15 percent stake in EADS.
Britain has said it would be satisfied with a “golden share” proposed by the three governments that would prevent any party from gaining more than 15 percent in the future company.
Britain is worried the United States might reject the future company if any one country possesses more than 9 percent of the capital, a source close to EADS said.
In London, 45 conservative British lawmakers urged Cameron on Oct. 5 to obtain guarantees before he gives the operation his approval.
The British deputies were worried in particular about the implications of a tie-up for jobs in the country, and also pointed to the danger of being shut out of consideration for U.S. defense contracts.