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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gref Presses for Greater Role In Airbus' Parent Company

PARIS -- Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref pressed his country's bid for a greater role in Airbus parent company EADS on Sunday, saying Moscow wants a clear answer on whether it is a welcome partner in the European aircraft manufacturer.

"We have given clear signals that we want to cooperate with Airbus," including by raising Russia's stake in EADS, Gref told reporters in Paris. "For now we do not have a comprehensive strategy from the Airbus side."

Gref expressed frustration at resistance to a greater Russian stake, saying it could help the aircraft-maker expand into a potentially vast Russian market against competition from U.S.-based Boeing.

He suggested that if Airbus continues to balk, Russia's banks and investors -- flush with oil profits and eager to expand in international markets -- could turn elsewhere.

"Russian companies are growing at a very fast pace and local markets are now too narrow for them, including in the aviation industry," Gref said.

If Airbus agrees, "we're ready to work as partners," he said. "If not, then we will build a different strategy of cooperation with other companies."

Last year, VTB announced it had acquired 5 percent of the European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. In response, EADS warned that the state bank would not be welcomed as a decision-making industrial shareholder.

Some observers say tighter links with Russia could endanger the European defense group's U.S. business, and generate concern about governance at EADS and the transfer of sensitive technologies.

Moscow, however, is determined to increase its role in Airbus, which is struggling to recover from costly delays to the A380 superjumbo, losses because of the weak dollar, and a year of management turmoil that has sent EADS stock tumbling.