Managers at European aerospace giant EADS yesterday met to discuss the crisis at its Airbus business - but the company denied a French claim it staged a full board meeting.
EADS said French Industry Minister Francois Loos had got it wrong over the meeting, playing down suggestions the board was set to intervene after fresh delays to the A380 super-jumbo hit its shares last week and raised doubts about the future of co-chief executive Noel Forgeard.
However, it confirmed its management did meet informally.
"There is a meeting, but it is not a board meeting," a spokesman at EADS in Paris said.
A spokesman in Munich, where EADS also has its joint headquarters, said there was no "formal meeting" of any kind.
Mr Loos set alarm bells ringing when he said there would be a board meeting in Munich where the company might discuss the future of Mr Forgeard, the fiery co-head of EADS who championed development of the A380 when head of Airbus.
He was answering a question over whether Mr Forgeard still had some authority left in the crisis-stricken company, which was hit by a steep fall in its shares last week after issuing a profit warning because of delays to the A380.
French reports said top EADS management were meeting in Munich to discuss the problems, which co-chief executive Tom Enders described at the weekend as an EADS issue spreading beyond Airbus.
The French government owns 15 per cent of EADS, but the decision on who should fill the French co-chief executive slot in the Franco-German-led company traditionally lies with its main private shareholder on the French side, Arnaud Lagardere.
France's Socialist opposition leader Francois Hollande called on President Jacques Chirac's conservatives to intervene in the crisis and questioned whether Mr Forgeard could stay.
"It's not up to the Lagardere group or the Germans to decide. It's up to the French state. It has 15 per cent of EADS capital," Mr Hollande said.
"The question I am asking the prime minister, the president, is whether Mr Forgeard can stay at the head of the EADS group?"
Airbus, which is 80-per cent owned by EADS, last week slashed its forecast for deliveries of its flagship A380 superjumbo in 2007-09.
The delay forced parent EADS to warn of a two billion euro (£1.36 billion) cash hole between 2007 and 2010, and investors responded by slicing a quarter off EADS's market value.
Mr Forgeard is under pressure after acknowledging that the company knew internally about a risk of delay in the project as early as April, though it did not make the problem public until last week.
Delay in the A380 is being blamed on complicated wiring needed to support inflight entertainment and other systems on the mammoth planes, which can seat between 555 and 850 people.
Mr Forgeard has also been criticised by shareholder activists who have demanded a probe into his personal sale of EADS shares in March, not long before he said there were indications of the delay.
France and Germany have launched inquiries.
Mr Forgeard says he has played everything by the book and has ruled out resigning in the middle of EADS's worst crisis since its creation in 2000.