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Economy

Airbus to change bosses amid fraud probe

media An Airbus A380 at the 2017 Le Bourget airshow REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

European planemaker Airbus is to change its top two executives, it announced on Friday. The French-based company faces fraud investigations in France, Britain, Germany and Austria.

Chief executive Tom Enders will not seek reappointment when his current terms end in 2019, the firm said.

And chief operating officer and president for commercial aircraft Fabrice Berger will step down in February 2018 and will be replaced by fellow Frenchman Guillaume Faury, who is currently head of the helicopters unit.

Rumours of the pair's departure hit the French media on Tuesday, arousing worries about a destabilisating war of succession within the company.

The company's shares remained stable at 85.32 euros on the Paris bourse on Friday morning.

Airbus is under investigation by French prosecutors and Britain's Serious Fraud Office for suspected corruption in its UK-based civil aviation arm, a problem the company itself reported to the authorities.

French investigators raided its offices in the Paris suburbs in November.

The group is also the target of inquiries in Austria and Germany over the sale of Eurofighter military jets to Austria in 2003.

Enders pays tribute to Brégier

Airbus's board of directors said it will assess both internal and external candidates to replace Enders next year, in good time for confirmation at the 2019 annual shareholders meeting.

After 25 years at the company, Brégier, 56, promised to "assure a harmonious transition" with his successor.

Despite friction between the two men, Enders, a 59-year-old German, paid tribute to his number two.

"Many of the successes that were the pride of this company over the last 10 years have been jointly led by Fabrice and myself," he said.

Faury, 49, is considered to have led Airbus Helicopters with flare despite the problems in the sector.

He "represents our new generation of leaders", Enders commented.

His successor will be announced in the next few weeks.

The German and French governments have a 22 percent shareholding in Airbus, which employs 134,000 people and is a major contributor to both countries' trade surpluses.

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