Picture: AFP/PASCAL PAVANI
Picture: AFP/PASCAL PAVANI

Paris — Airbus has agreed in principle to a settlement with French, British and US authorities over an investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption, it said on Tuesday.

The European plane maker has been investigated by French and British authorities for suspected corruption over jet sales dating back more than a decade. It has also faced US investigations over suspected violations of export controls.

Airbus, which dominates with US rival Boeing the commercial airliner market, said it could not comment on precise details regarding its talks with authorities, including how much it expected to pay out in the settlements. Some press reports suggested a figure of about €3bn.

Nevertheless, Airbus shares rose, as analysts and traders welcomed the fact that Airbus was managing to draw a line under the affair. The stock was up 2.3% in early trading.

“Airbus confirms that it has reached agreement in principle with the French Parquet National Financier (PNF), the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the US authorities,” the Franco-German company said in a statement.

“These agreements are made in the context of investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption as well as compliance with the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). They remain subject to approval by French and UK courts and the US court and regulator,” it said.

Analysts at brokerage Jefferies welcomed the settlement, though they wrote in a note to clients that the reported cost of €3bn was “towards the upper end of what we thought probable”.

A traders’ note from Bank of America (BofA) said the settlement removed a negative “overhang” on the stock.

Airbus had already fired more than 100 people over ethics and compliance issues as a result of its own investigation into the corruption allegations.

The investigations by British and French authorities began after Airbus drew the attention of regulators to inaccurate declarations it had made to Britain’s export credit finance agency over payments to sales agents. The SFO launched its probe in August 2016, followed seven months later by the PNF.

At the centre of the case was a decades-old system of third-party agents or intermediaries run from a now-disbanded headquarters unit that at its height involved about 250 people across parts of the world and several hundreds of millions of euros of payments a year, sources familiar with the matter have said.

A German investigation into Airbus for potential misuse of client documents is ongoing.

Reuters

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