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EADS says Spain may sell 1.15 percent stake in shake-up

Visitors talk near the welcome desk of the EADS booth at the ILA Berlin Air Show in Selchow near Schoenefeld south of Berlin on September 13
Visitors talk near the welcome desk of the EADS booth at the ILA Berlin Air Show in Selchow near Schoenefeld south of Berlin on September 13

By Tim Hepher

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Spain plans to sell 1.15 percent of EADS , worth around 400 million euros ($514 million) at current prices, as the aerospace company overhauls its structure, EADS said on Wednesday.

Spain is reducing its core stake to 4 percent from more than 5 percent as part of a deal with France and Germany to simplify Europe's largest aerospace group.

It had been expected to place the surplus shares inside a non-voting foundation set up to keep national stakes within Dutch takeover rules, but EADS told shareholders gathering to adopt the new structure that Spain would be allowed to sell sooner than expected.

The move will allow Spain to tap into a 39 percent increase in EADS' share price since the beginning of the year to help boost finances severely strained by Europe's financial crisis.

EADS said Spain had been granted approval to sell the shares between the formal adoption of the new structure, which is so far expected to happen next week, and April 9.

EADS shares closed at 40.925 euros on Tuesday, valuing the world's second-largest aerospace group after U.S. rival Boeing at 33.9 billion euros. The stock was down 1.1 percent at 40.47 euros in early trading on Wednesday.

Shareholders meeting in Amsterdam are expected to adopt a radical shake-up in EADS' corporate governance designed to pare government influence while allowing industrial partners Lagardere and Daimler to wind down their 13-year-old participation in EADS.

Both companies want to concentrate on their core business. France and Germany will have core stakes of 12 percent each but will see their powers to interfere in the business reduced, while the free market float will rise sharply to 72 percent.

EADS shareholders are also expected to authorize a share buyback of up to 15 percent. EADS said it would look at various ways of carrying out the operation in order to retain flexibility and manage any overhang arising from sales of "legacy" shareholders.

($1 = 0.7777 euros)

(Editing by James Regan)