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EADS taking time on M&A, A350 is on track: executive

EADS Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Marwan Lahoud attends the MEDEF summer forum on the campus of the HEC School of Management in Jouy
EADS Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Marwan Lahoud attends the MEDEF summer forum on the campus of the HEC School of Management in Jouy

By Patrick Vignal

PAU, France (Reuters) - EADS plans to adjust its portfolio as it reorganizes defense and space activities into a single division, but is in no hurry to embark on fresh deals, the European aerospace group's strategy chief said on Tuesday.

"There could be disposals and acquisitions as part of the move to a single defense-space division.. but we have to give it time and let the new team establish itself," Marwan Lahoud, chief strategy and marketing officer, told reporters.

"After that we will announce a few things."

EADS, the parent of planemaker Airbus, announced in July it would combine its defense and space subsidiaries and rename the group after the Airbus planemaking brand, starting from January 1.

The restructuring is due to be completed by July 2014.

Last month activist hedge fund TCI urged EADS to sell its stake in Dassault Aviation , the French maker of combat and business jets, saying the 4 billion euro ($5.3 billion) holding was "a poor use of capital."

Industry sources have said a quick sale, which is subject to pre-emption rights by the French government, is unlikely.

Lahoud, who masterminded an attempt last year to merge with Britain's BAE Systems to forge the world's largest arms maker, said EADS still aimed to surpass U.S. rival Boeing but acknowledged the focus would be on commercial aerospace.

"Our aim is to be the number one in aerospace in the world," he said on the sidelines of a French defense industry event in southwest France.

"There is no point in pretending; the development and growth are on the civil side."

A350 ON TRACK

Lahoud said testing for the latest Airbus passenger jet, the A350, was going well.

"There have been no new problems on the A350. The flight tests are going according to plan. We are getting on with the program and we are confident of meeting our goals for certification and first delivery."

Airbus aims to deliver the first of the long-distance mid-sized jets, designed to compete with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, in the second half of next year.

Lahoud also said Airbus was trying to finalize orders for the A380 superjumbo.

Apart from a recent leasing order, sales of the world's largest airliner to airlines have been sluggish recently, with gaps of unsold jets looming in the production line for 2015.

"Our goal is to get as many orders as deliveries in order to reach our goal of breakeven in 2015," Lahoud said.

"We have some sales campaigns under way and some strong prospects around the world and we will do everything we can to reach this target."

Airbus aims to deliver 15 A380s in 2013, down from 30 in 2012 as it slows production to allow for the switch to permanent wing modifications, following wing cracks two years ago.

It has said it aims to have delivered a total of 150 A380s by the end of 2014, implying 28 deliveries next year if it reaches its target of 25 in 2013. By the end of 2012, Airbus had delivered a total of 97 of the double-decker planes.

(Writing by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sophie Walker)

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