EADS boss is sick of nationalism

 - November 27, 2006, 10:36 AM

EADS plans to appoint a British board member in the event BAE Systems goes forward with its sale of its 20-percent stake in the European conglomerate, company co-CEOs Louis Gallois and Tom Enders confirmed here during a morning press conference yesterday. Nevertheless, Enders made it clear that he has grown tired of the nationalistic politics that seem so fundamental to any discussion about the composition of EADS and its board.

Enders said that it is vital to get away from this preoccupation with nationality. “The important thing is that we have somebody on the board who can contribute value to our company across the entire group, not just somebody who is determined to just protect British assets and British jobs,” said the German executive.

Although EADS has also agreed in principle to prolong commitments for Airbus wing production in Broughton, neither executive would make any promises concerning employment in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter.

“There are no guarantees,” said Enders. “The jobs all over the company, the jobs in Airbus and other entities have to be competitive, and they have to be innovative.”

Gallois repeatedly stressed the importance of the UK to EADS, however, reminding the audience of EADS UK’s 16,000 employees and the fact that the company’s Broughton, UK plant, just outside Chester, remains the only wing production facility in Europe. “It would be absurd for Airbus not to take advantage of the facilities and technologies at Chester,” said Gallois. “I don’t know where we could build wings as well as at Chester.”

The French executive also stressed that EADS’s goal to achieve €10 billion in defense receipts this year depends very much now and in the future on the participation of its UK workforce. To wit, a new research and technology center planned for placement in the UK would serve not only the commercial aviation business, but also defense and space.

“We want to be considered as a British citizen,” said Gallois.