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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2007, 20:45 GMT
EADS sells six Airbus factories
Aerial shot of Airbus A380 plane

Airbus parent EADS says it is selling off six plants to British, French and German companies, as it focuses on "core activities".

The sites are the manufacturing plant at Filton in the UK, Meaulte and Saint Nazaire Ville in France, and Nordenham, Varel and Augsburg in Germany.

Three firms - the UK's GKN, Latecoere in France and MT Aerospace - were named "preferred bidders" for the sites.

The Airbus and EADS plants concerned employ a total of 9,400 workers.

The plant at Filton, Bristol, has two main tasks - design engineering, and manufacturing and assembling wing components.

It is only the manufacturing part - which employs 1,800 people, about a quarter of the total employees - that is being sold.

Airbus UK said the sale was not expected to lead to any compulsory redundancies.

The Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) praised the new arrangement, saying it "gives GKN a major role in the future of the UK aerospace industry".

'Remaining issues'

The affected sites will continue to produce parts for the existing Airbus planes - A320 group, A330/A340, and A380 - for which Airbus has an order book of some 3,000 aircraft.

"The EADS board of directors has authorised the management of EADS and Airbus to enter into negotiations with the preferred bidders on remaining issues and the required final due diligence," EADS said in a statement.

Airbus factory at Filton
The Filton manufacturing plant in Bristol employs 1,800 staff

It added that the target was "to achieve a final agreement as soon as possible".

The plant transactions are expected to be completed in the summer of 2008, when the sites will transfer to their new owners, and will continue to be given Airbus "work packages".

EADS and Airbus management will continue negotiations with the buyers on remaining issues and the required due diligence.

'Clear commitment'

Progress on a share purchase agreement is expected to be seen early next year.

EADS chief executive Louis Gallois said the move "helps EADS to reduce financing needs in a period strained by conjunction of costly programmes and weak dollar uncertainty".

EADS and Airbus executives have made a number of warnings this year that the weak dollar was causing difficulties.

Because Airbus mainly manufacturers its aircraft within the eurozone, but sells them in dollars, it is highly vulnerable to foreign exchange fluctuations.

Airbus said earlier this year that it planned to cut 10,000 jobs in four years under its Power8 restructuring plan, which would save it 5bn euros.

"The EADS board sees this [sale] decision as a clear commitment of the management to the Power8 targets," the company said.

Airbus had previously said around 1,500 jobs in the UK would be shed in the next four years.

The figure is made up of around 1,100 at Filton and about 400 at Broughton in north Wales where about 7,000 people are employed.

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