Airbus Tumbles on Report U.S. Has Started Bribery Probe
(Bloomberg) -- Airbus SE shares tumbled following a report that the U.S. Department of Justice has officially started an investigation into the European planemaker in parallel with British and French bribery probes.
The stock fell 4.4 percent, the biggest drop in 2 1/2 years. Le Monde reported that Airbus was informed at the end of the summer about the move by U.S. authorities. The newspaper added, without saying where it got the information, that the company could face fines of several billion dollars from the probes.
“Airbus is cooperating with the U.S. authorities in close coordination” with investigators in the U.K. and France, the company said in a statement.
The Department of Justice is looking into the company, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg, asking not to be identified discussing private matters. Airbus had disclosed in February that U.S. agencies asked it for information to assess whether any of the misconduct alleged in the European probes could fall within U.S. jurisdiction.
The DOJ didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
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The Toulouse, France-based industrial giant has been dogged by a series of investigations concerning the use of middlemen in securing plane sales, with Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders announcing that he wouldn’t seek another term amid the continuing uncertainty.
Enders, who has been trying to convince investigators in France and the U.K. that Airbus is serious about reining in improprieties, has previously warned that the probes may lead to “significant penalties.” He will be replaced by Guillaume Faury in April.
The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office and France’s Parquet National Financier have been investigating possible bribery in Airbus’s passenger jet business, while Airbus agreed to pay 81 million euros ($93 million) to settle a German bribery investigation into fighter-jet sales dating to 2002.
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Cobbled together from failing European aviation companies decades ago, Airbus has established a global duopoly in the passenger-jet market with Boeing Co. Central to its operations were middlemen, who had connections with authorities and airline officials around the world. The investigations focus on whether those foreign agents paid bribes to secure the deals.
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