Le Monde, the leading newspaper in France, yesterday quoted an American Thinker piece by me in the first sentence of an article on American press coverage of the battle between Boeing and Airbus.
Selon le magazine The American Thinker ("le penseur am�ricain"), il s'agit de la plus "fascinante bataille commerciale de la plan�te".
Roughly: 'According to the magazine The American Thinker ('le penseur am�ricain'), it has taken the character of the most 'fascinating business battle in the world''.
Flattering though this reference to us may be, the rest of the article adopted a rather critical tone toward American press coverage of the battle, citing Fox News, CNN, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Business Week, and suggesting or implying that they were carrying water for the American manufacturer at the expense of its European competitor.
Strangely, though, the article nowhere mentioned that one of the principal shareholders of the parent firm of Airbus, EADS, the Lagard�re Group, is also one of the principal shareholders (over 15%!) in Le Monde. Even worse, as our friend John Rosenthal of the excellent Transatlantic Intelligencer website points out,
In April, after the share price of the Franco—German aeronautics and defense firm EADS reached an all—time high of 35 euros per share, the French Lagard�re Group and the German firm DaimlerChrysler each sold off major parts of their capital holdings in the company. Daimler reduced its stake in EADS from 30% to 22.5% and Lagard�re from 15% to 7.5%. The French state continues to hold a 15% stake in EADS. On Wednesday, following the announcement of delays in the delivery of its A380 "super—jumbo" jet by EADS—subsidiary Airbus, the share price of EADS plunged 26.32% to 18.73 euros: nearly half of the price at the beginning of April.
Arnauld Lagard�re, CEO of Lagard�re and co—Chair of the Board of Directors of EADS, had the following to say in an interview in the 16 June edition of Le Monde:
I have the choice of being taken for someone who is dishonest or someone who is incompetent and doesn't know what's going on in his factories. I accept [j'assume] the second version.
The Lagard�re Group is, incidentally, also a major shareholder in Le Monde — which perhaps explains why the excerpted quote that is set in relief in the paper version of the paper is not the above—cited, but rather the following: "If we were dishonest we would not have sold 7.5% of the capital, but all of it."
This is not the only sale of stock over which eyebrows have been raised. My friend Jack Risko of Dinocrat.com notes another controversy:
Some have been concerned that, unlike the A380 delays, there were no delays in the CEO's selling stock prior to the announcement of problems that dramatically hit the stock (via Reuters):
The co—chief executive of Airbus parent EADS clung to his post in the face of probes announced on Friday into its recent stock collapse, saying he was unaware of costly delays to the A380 superjumbo jet until after he had sold shares. Frenchman Noel Forgeard said he had nothing to fear from any insider trading probe after reducing his family's shareholdings in March, and lifted the veil on internal discussions in a bid to show that future deliveries had been considered intact.
Rejecting investor and union calls to resign, Forgeard insisted he had received no inkling of either the delays or a shake—up of holdings by EADS industrial shareholders, which came days after he sold shares and weighed on EADS stock in March. 'It was an unfortunate coincidence. Obviously if I had had the least privileged information, I would not have sold the shares,' Forgeard said on Europe 1 radio.
On the day that EADS stock fell 26%, the intra—day low was off 34%. Shareholders have a reason to be mighty upset.
I have done my best to be fair in my coverage, but my loathing of state—sponsorship of enterprise may from time to time color my remarks. For the record, however, Boeing does not have any financial interest in The American Thinker. We would welcome advertising from either firm or both, however.
Thomas Lifson 6 19 06
Update: Here is a Google automatic translation of the Le Monde article (h/t Joe Crowley).