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      06-16-2006, 03:53 PM   #5

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And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

Airbus executive defends stock sales
PARIS (AP) — The embattled co-chief executive of Airbus parent EADS on Friday (June 16) defended his sale of shares in the company before news of delays to Airbus' A-380 superjumbo sent the stock tumbling, even as France's market regulator confirmed that it would look into the transactions.

European Aeronautics Defence & Space's French co-CEO, Noel Forgeard, described as an "unfortunate coincidence" the stock sales in March on which he earned 2.5 million euros ($3.1 million) in profits.

He also sought to play down the importance of the costly production backlog affecting the world's largest passenger plane, and said none of the 16 airlines that placed orders for a total of 159 A-380 planes has canceled.

"It's a glitch," Forgeard said on Europe-1 radio. "All aircraft programs have suffered delays."

Wiring problems with the much-touted double-decker A-380 announced this week incensed airlines worldwide and ballooned into a debacle that prompted questions about the leadership of EADS, a European showcase project run by French-German management.

One key question surrounds large stock sales by Forgeard, three of his children and other top EADS managers in mid-March — three months before the A-380 delays were announced.

French stock market regulator AMF said in a brief statement that it has been conducting a probe of EADS transactions for the past several weeks. "The recent events will be examined in the framework of this probe," it said. It said it will study Forgeard's sale.

Germany's securities regulator BaFin, meanwhile, said Friday that it would investigate the sharp drop in EADS stock this week as part of a routine study of unusual market movements