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Airbus chief denies insider trading allegations

Chief executive Tom Enders denied allegations of insider trading at the European plane manufacturer, calling a French probe incompetent, biased and unfair.


The head of European plane-maker Airbus said Wednesday that he and other officials were innocent of insider trading, and slammed a French probe into the allegations as incompetent, biased and unfair.

The denial from Airbus CEO Tom Enders followed a report that investigators were probing alleged share sales before its parent company EADS announced major delays to the A380 superjumbo in 2006, which sent its stock down sharply.

Enders said leaks about the probe to a French Internet site which reported them on Tuesday were "shocking," and that executives from Airbus and EADS were innocent.

"I know I have done no wrong-doing and I say the same for all the managers who are supposedly involved," he told a news briefing in New Zealand.

"I am absolutely convinced there was no wrong-doing. We will demonstrate that the people who have done the investigation haven't done that in a competent way," he said.

French web news service Mediapart said that French regulators were probing 17 officials at Airbus and EADS to see if they had sold off shares in light of inside information they had about production delays for the superjumbo.

Mediapart sourced its report to the regulators, France's Financial Markets Authority or AMF. The head of the AMF criticised the leak, but refused to comment on the contents.

Enders called the leaks "shocking" and "unacceptable" -- and insisted that the named executives would fight back.

"We will defend our reputation and our rights to be presumed innocent with all means at our disposal," he said.

"Our names are dragged into the mud... and we are sitting ducks. So we hope very much that these accusations now come into the open, and then the managers know what they are accused of, so we can defend ourselves."

Enders said the investigation itself was "unfair" and "biased."

"The investigation has been conducted by people who know nothing about our business and don't even want to know about our business, and are driven by a conspiracy theory," he added.

"As the head of Airbus and a member of the EADS top team, I stand up to say I'm absolutely convinced that we will refute all allegations. We hope that soon we'll be able to defend ourselves properly, because so far we haven't."

The double-decker A380 is the largest passenger airline ever built, and has been the centrepiece of Airbus efforts to compete with US rival Boeing.

It made its first commercial flight in October after billions of dollars in cost over-runs and months of delays.

Mediapart said that among those being looked at were Enders and former EADS co-chief executive Noel Forgeard -- as well as shareholders including German automaker Daimler and French media and defence firm Lagardere.

The AMF had previously announced that there was cause for action against several people at EADS over alleged insider trading at the end of 2005 and in early 2006, but did not release any names.

In March 2006, EADS privately cut its 2007 delivery target for the new superjumbo aircraft.

Later that month, Lagardere and what was then DaimlerChrysler said they would each sell a 7.5 percent stake in EADS.

The A380 delays were publicly announced in June 2006, sending the EADS share price down more than 26 percent.

The AMF said shortly after that it was looking at certain previous stock deals, and in July 2006, Forgeard stepped down. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The French government, which has a 15 percent stake in EADS, has insisted its conduct in the matter has been "beyond reproach."

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