Airbus parent EADS is in talks to buy back 1.56 percent of its stock from the French government, it said on Monday, the latest step in the overhaul of state interests in Europe's largest aerospace group.
The move, which could raise some 484 million euros ($634 million), marks the first time France has contemplated selling part of its 15 percent stake in EADS since the group was created from a merger of French, German and Spanish aerospace businesses in 2000.
EADS said the discussions focused on the repurchase of shares that the French government has already agreed to place beyond its voting control as part of the wider corporate shake-up.
The price for the off-market transaction would be 37.35 euros, equal to the amount obtained by the government's previous industrial partner Lagardere , the French media group, for its own stake in EADS, the company said in a statement.
Under sweeping changes ratified by shareholders last month, France is keeping a core voting share of 12 percent while ringfencing the remaining 3 percent in an independent Dutch foundation, whose voting patterns it cannot influence.
The scheme is designed to avoid a combination of French, German and Spanish state shareholdings breaking through the 30 percent threshold that would require a full takeover bid in the Netherlands, where EADS is registered.
France and Germany will keep voting stakes of 12 percent each under the new set-up for EADS, with Spain at 4 percent.
The move also comes weeks after France raised 449 million euros from the sale of a 3.12 percent stake in aircraft engine maker Safran to help bolster the economy.
EADS said the transaction would form part of a share buyback announced on April 2. The company plans to pick an investment service provider to manage the 18-month program.
(Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt and Tim Hepher; Editing by Greg Mahlich)