DaimlerChrysler Unloads Part Of Airbus Stake

Company to receive nearly $2 billion from sale.

BERLIN (AP) - DaimlerChrysler AG said Friday it sold a third of its stake in EADS, the parent company of planemaker Airbus, to a private investment group in a deal that will maintain the balance between German and French shareholders.

DaimlerChrysler will receive approximately $1.95 billion in cash, which is expected to be booked in the first quarter of 2007 - a deal that will likely help lift financial results that have been dragged down by its U.S. Chrysler Group.

The automaker is to announce its first-quarter results on Feb. 14.

Under the terms of the deal, DaimlerChrysler placed its entire 22.5 percent EADS stake in a new company, itself held by a consortium of private and state-run investors, including insurer Allianz SE, Commerzbank AG, Deutsche Bank AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., along with several state-owned banks.

They will acquire a one-third interest, or a 7.5 percent in European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. NV.

Frankfurt-based Commerzbank will represent the interests of the 15 investors. Although they have no voting rights, the group will receive a preference dividend of 175 percent of the normal dividend instead.

''At the current share price level and in light of the preference dividend, we consider our investment as attractive,'' Commerzbank Chief Executive Klaus-Peter Mueller said in a statement.

DaimlerChrysler has the option of dissolving the arrangement ''on July 1, 2010 at the earliest,'' it said.

''If the structure is dissolved, DaimlerChrysler has the right either to provide the investors with EADS shares or to pay cash compensation. If EADS shares are provided, the German state, and the French state and Lagardere through Sogeade, will be entitled to pre-empt such EADS shares to retain the balance between the German and the French side,'' the company said.

Stuttgart-based DaimlerChrysler has been involved in talks for months with German and French officials, along with EADS Spanish shareholders, about how to reduce its stake in the company without upsetting the balance of national representation in the company, which also produces military hardware for European countries.

German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm called the deal ''sensible,'' saying it would help Germany's position in ongoing restructuring talks at Airbus.

''The agreement reached strengthens Germany's position in negotiations over Airbus factories,'' Wilhelm said of the plants that employ 29,000 workers in Germany. ''At the same time, we continue to seek an amicable agreement with France.''

Germany has been concerned that jobs at Airbus factories in Germany may be threatened as part of the ongoing restructuring efforts at the aircraft maker, which has suffered delays to its key A380 superjumbo.

EADS' corporate offices in Munich had no immediate comment.