Top German EADS exec held in insider trading probe

Top German EADS exec held in insider trading probe
A file photo of Andreas Sperl. Photo: DPA
A former top Airbus executive and current head of a German EADS plant, Andreas Sperl, was held for questioning in France on Wednesday for alleged insider trading.

Sources close to the case said the 61-year-old Sperl is one of 17 people, including four Germans, suspected by French stock market investigators of using inside knowledge about production delays at Airbus to make massive gains on share sales.

A former chief financial officer at Airbus, Sperl now heads a subsidiary EADS plant in the eastern German city of Dresden. He is the first serving top executive at the European Aeronautic Defence Space Company to be questioned in the probe.

He was being questioned by French financial investigators, who can hold him in custody for up to 48 hours, after which he could be brought before a judge to face possible charges, the sources said.

According to a report by France’s financial market regulator, AMF, Sperl sold 58,000 EADS shares in November 2005 and March 2006, earning €816,000 ($1.28 million), before Airbus revealed production delays with its A380 superjumbo.

The announcement in June 2006 of a six-month production delay on the new A380, the world’s largest airliner, threw EADS and its aircraft unit into crisis.

The former boss of Airbus, German Gustav Humbert, was charged by French authorities with insider trading on July 2.

Two French former EADS executives, Noel Forgeard and Jean-Paul Gut, have already been charged with the same offence. Forgeard and Gut have denied any wrongdoing, and Humbert’s lawyer has said that the accusations are unfounded.