Pressure mounting on EADS chief to quit

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The Independent Online

The pressure was mounting on Noel Forgeard, the co-chief executive of EADS, to quit yesterday after it emerged he was aware of production problems on the Airbus A380 superjumbo as long ago as April.

French and German stock market regulators, meanwhile, launched investigations into the sale of shares in EADS, Airbus's parent company, by M. Forgeard and members of his family in March.

Shares in EADS, which owns 80 per cent of Airbus, collapsed by a quarter this week, wiping €5bn (£3.4bn) from its value, after it disclosed delivery delays on the A380 programme could cost it €4bn in the next four years.

Investors are furious that Airbus and EADS did not inform the market much earlier about production problems on the giant aircraft. Deliveries for next year will now be two-thirds lower than planned, exposing Airbus to huge compensation claims from its airline customers.

M. Forgeard has denied having any advance warning of the problems before he made a €2.5m profit on 15 March by selling EADS shares. "The problem of delays were put on the table during April, and at the end of May many people still thought it was possible to resolve them," he told French radio. He said EADS had published its detailed assessment of the financial impact of the hold-ups on the same day the information was finalised.

But a Paris-based fund manager called on M. Forgeard to resign to restore investor confidence. Gérard Augustin-Normand, president of Richelieu Finance, said M. Forgeard may not have done anything illegal but the company was facing a crisis of credibility.

However, the French President Jacques Chirac said he had confidence in the EADS management, a sign that the Elysée does not yet want M. Forgeard to quit, having got him the job a a year ago after a wrangle between EADS's French and German shareholders.