Dassault family again in control of company

 - April 15, 2008, 8:32 AM

The Dassault family again holds the majority share of Dassault Aviation, with 50.01 percent of the French aircraft manufacturer’s stock. The announcement was made May 29 after the French Conseil des Marchés financiers (financial markets council) received a letter from Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault (GIMD)–the Dassault family’s investment structure–stating that it had accumulated more than 50 percent of both the shares and the voting rights in Dassault Aviation. GIMD previously held 49.93 percent of the company.

To increase its share above 50 percent, GIMD bought some 8,100 shares on the stock market for about €3 million ($2.76 million). GIMD made its move at a time when the French press is reporting the possibility of further consolidation in the European aerospace industry.

The other major shareholder in Dassault Aviation’s capital is European aerospace giant EADS, which holds 45.76 percent. The floating part of the shares is now 4.23 percent.

In an interview with the French financial daily Les Echos on May 31, Dassault Aviation CEO Charles Edelstenne said, “We wanted to clearly affirm that, from now on, the group has full control of its destiny. Now the Dassault group has a clear majority. We used to be a target; now the situation has dramatically changed.”

For a long time Dassault Aviation has been striving to remain independent. Political pressure and European consolidation made it challenging not to be merged into fully or partially state-owned companies. Several French government officials failed in their previous attempts to merge Dassault Aviation into Aerospatiale.

Asked whether the company would be able to weather a long downturn in French defense budgets, Edelstenne answered, “We have no intention to abandon our military business either in the short, mid- or long term. Our success in the civil business ensures the military business is sustainable.” Since 1997 Falcon business jet sales have accounted for 48 to 76 percent of the company’s revenues.

Until 1998 the owner of EADS’ 45.76-percent share was the French government. It then transferred these shares to Aerospatiale. At the time a “shareholders pact” prohibited any sale or purchase of Dassault Aviation shares from either the Dassault family or Aerospatiale. The pact was invalidated when Aerospatiale, DASA and CASA formed EADS in 1999. From that time on, GIMD was free to buy shares available on the open market.