Airbus plc plan still on track

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The Independent Online
Ministers from the four countries involved in the Airbus consortium yesterday pledged to stick to the timetable to turn the plane-maker into a fully fledged company by 1999, despite fears the process had become stalled.

Emerging from the meeting at the Paris airshow yesterday, Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade, said she was "cautiously optimistic" about the plan, but urged those involved to adopt a sense of urgency.

Mrs Beckett said the ministers had backed the memorandum of understanding signed in January, which said the new company would include assets from partner companies which include British Aerospace and Dasa of Germany. "The situation is on the way to being resolved. It's not resolved as of now but they are committed to resolving it. The final deadline of 1991 is still the final deadline," said Mrs Beckett.

Reports recently suggested Yves Michot, head of Aerospatiale of France, had said the partner companies had agreed not to include assets in the venture, leaving the Airbus company as little more than a marketing organisation. Mrs Beckett said these comments had been described as "a misunderstanding" in the meeting.

The French Communist transport minister, who chaired the meeting, gave no hint about his new government's commitment to privatising Aerospatiale, a move seen as an essential first step to creating an Airbus company.