BAE Systems is to carry out a full audit of planemaker Airbus before a decision on whether to sell its 20 per cent stake for £1.9 billion.
The group yesterday ordered the full-scale review of the business after an independent valuation by investment bank Rothschild came in much lower than City expectations for a figure of between £3 billion to £4 billion.
The audit, which is not expected to be completed before the end of August, will help the BAE board assess whether or not to recom-mend that its shareholders vote in favour of the proposed disposal to Airbus partner EADS.
The study is expected to provide BAE with more details on the problems facing Airbus after it emerged last month that production difficulties had caused delays in the delivery timetable for its A380 superjumbo.
BAE said in April that it planned to exercise its option to sell off its stake in the planemaker to the Franco-German group. Rothschild was later appointed by both sides to come up with an independent valuation.
According to one report yesterday while institutional investors were unhappy with the valuation, they could still accept a sale if convinced it reflected the medium-term value of the Airbus business.
BAE said a circular setting out the board's recommendations to shareholders and further details regarding the proposed disposal would be issued after it had reviewed the outcome of the audit. The company said last month it hoped the problems at Airbus would not affect the valuation, which it believed would be based on the "medium and long-term viability" of Airbus.
The outcome was so disappointing that shares in the company fell five per cent following the announcement earlier this week.
The price tag was seen as a potential blow to its plans as BAE said in April that it would use the proceeds to fund a transatlantic growth strategy. About 13,000 are employed building wings for the Airbus, mainly at Broughton in North Wales and Filton in Bristol.
BAE said it was likely that Airbus UK employees would remain in the BAE Systems group pension plans and that the contributions for both staff and Airbus UK would remain unchanged.
Meanwhile, Airbus said that Tunisian airline Tunisair has signed a firm order for one A319 medium-haul passenger jet in a deal worth some 47 million euros (£32.6 million).