Shareholders in BAE Systems PLC on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved the sale of the company's 20 percent stake in troubled plane maker Airbus to joint venture partner European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. NV.
The vote in favor of the euro2.5 billion (US$3.2 billion) sale was widely expected after BAE's board accepted an independent valuation of the stake that was some way below market expectations. EADS, which currently owns the remaining 80 percent of Airbus, is now expected to take full control of the commercial aircraft giant within a matter of days.
BAE said at an extraordinary general meeting in London that proxy votes cast ahead of the gathering showed 99.85 percent in favor of the sale. The proxy votes cast account for around 70 percent of the company's shares.
BAE expects to earn around euro1.78 million (US$2.3 million) from the deal, after repayments of outstanding debts and the cost of the transaction. It also plans to return around 500 million pounds (US$950 million; euro740 million) to shareholders after the deal is closed.
Chairman Dick Olver told shareholders Wednesday that the BAE board believes Airbus is facing a "challenging" outlook in both the short and medium time, but added that the company's prospects looked better over the long term.
"The board is concerned about the possible cash requirements for the Airbus business in the medium term," Olver said.
Toulouse, France-based Airbus is struggling to keep pace with rival U.S.-based Boeing Co. as it faces problems with the development of its new planes _ its flagship double-decker A380 and mid-sized A350 XWB, or extra-wide-body.
EADS announced more delays Tuesday in the A380 superjumbo jet program, leading some airlines to hint they were considering canceling their orders.
It was the third time the program has been delayed, adding up to a total setback of about two years from the original promised launch date for the world's largest commercial airliner.
BAE shares were down 0.9 percent at 395.5 pence (US$7.43; euro5.83) on the London Stock Exchange.