Aerospace and defence group BAE Systems today denied it had any plans to sell its stake in European aircraft giant Airbus.
The Farnborough-based group said it was not looking at disposing of its 20% interest in the Toulouse-based group after UK trade ministers expressed concern about a potential sale.
A BAE spokesman said: “We never say never, but at the moment, our position is that a sale is not being considered.”
At a recent cabinet sub-committee meeting on aerospace and industry issues, ministers expressed “deep reservations” about any move by BAE to sell its stake in Airbus, according to today’s Observer.
Defence secretary Geoff Hoon and Trade and Industry secretary Patricia Hewitt were said to be concerned that any divestment would simply be a move by BAE to cash in on the success of the pan-European jet maker, which employs about 10,000 people at sites in Broughton near Chester and Filton in Bristol.
Ministers believe such a move would put the short term interests of BAE investors before the longer term interests of one of the UK’s few successful industrial sectors, the Observer said.
A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said: “We understand that BAE has said it is not considering a sale (of its Airbus stake).
“Airbus is a good UK manufacturing story and we want to ensure it has a long term future.”
Airbus, which makes the A380 superjumbo and a range of other civil aircraft types, has overtaken US rival Boeing as the world leader in commercial jet manufacturing.
It is benefiting as airlines, particularly in the low fares sector, have begun ordering jets again following lower demand after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Airbus nearly doubled its earnings before interest and tax in the first nine months of 2004 to €1.4bn from €701m beforehand.