British Aerospace’s influence over the Eurofighter project has been lessened by last week’s merger between France’s Aerospatiale Matra and Germany’s DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa).
The largest share in Eurofighter is now held by Dasa (42.1%), leaving BAe with a smaller 37.5% share. It is not yet clear how the new company, called European Aeronautic, Defence and Space (EADS) will market both Eurofighter and its French-built rival, the Dassault Rafale.
Asked how EADS would square the conflict between the need to market the two planes, a BAe insider said: `That’s a question for them’.
But BAe’s official response to the merger was to welcome it as `the latest move towards the integration of the aerospace and defence industry in Europe’.
The deal was also described by BAe as a helpful step towards the creation of a `single corporate entity’ for the manufacture of the Airbus, which will replace the current loose consortium arrangement.
`Only a bilateral negotiation between BAe and the new merged company now remains to be concluded before the highly desirable single corporate entity can be realised,’ BAe said.
The idea of BAe responding to the Dasa/Aerospatiale Matra merger by seeking a closer US defence alliance was given short shrift by City analysts.
Meanwhile, Marconi Electronic Systems, shortly to be bought by BAe, has forged new links with Europe with the announcement of the Astrium space project. It will join EADS in the European joint venture. The companies expect to begin the project in early 2000, pending regulatory approval.
The venture will centre on building the European Space Agency’s Ariane rocket family, plus observation, communications and science satellites.
EADS will hold 75% of the shares and BAe the remainder, a Dasa spokesman said. This would provide a `bridge to Britain’ for EADS, he added.