Airbus Close to Selling Rest of Stake in Dassault Aviation

  • Sale of Dassault shares said to come as soon as this week
  • Stake in aircraft maker has market value of 2.1 billion euros

Airbus Group SE is close to selling off its remaining holding in Dassault Aviation SA as the European aircraft maker disposes of assets to focus on its core businesses, people familiar with the matter said.

Airbus is working with advisers, and a sale could come as soon as this week, the people said, asking not to be named because the deliberations are private. No final decision has been made and the timing could change, the people said.

Airbus held 23.6 percent of Dassault Aviation as of April 3, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That holding has a market value of about 2.1 billion euros ($2.4 billion). Spokesmen for Airbus and Dassault declined to comment. Airbus said in October that it planned to offload the remaining shares by the end of this year as it overhauls its portfolio and sells assets.

The company sold a 17.5 percent holding in family-controlled Dassault Aviation, which makes Rafale warplanes and Falcon business jets, in 2015, reaping a 697-million euro gain. So far this year, Airbus has also sold its satellite communication business to Apax Partners and its defense electronics business to KKR & Co.

Selling Down

Airbus began cutting its stake of about 46 percent in Dassault in November 2014, reducing the holding it inherited from the French state via one of its predecessor companies more than a decade ago. Airbus had never reaped synergies by working with Dassault, keeping the shares only as a financial investment.

Airbus then sold an additional stake in March 2015, cutting its holding to 24.6 percent and offloading 1.61 million shares, using the proceeds to fund growth. Some 71 percent of those shares were sold to institutional investors for 1,030 euros a share and the remainder to Dassault for 980 euros apiece, giving the total transaction a value of 1.64 billion euros.

Dassault’s shares fell 5.20 euros to 967.05 euros in Paris trading Wednesday. The stock had declined 16 percent this year. Airbus rose 10 euro cents to 53.61 euros.

Jet Sales

Dassault gets about two-thirds of its sales from corporate jets, an industry that’s fared poorly in the last few years.

Sales of new, private aircraft fell 16 percent in the first quarter from a year ago as demand weakened for the largest planes. Jet airplane billings had their biggest decline in almost five years, dropping to $3.53 billion in the quarter from $4.2 billion a year earlier, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association reported in May.

The company’s had more success with sales of its Rafale fighter jets outside of France. Dassault won its first export order for Rafales in 2015, for 24 to Egypt. Then in May 2015 Qatar signed a contract for another two dozen.

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