BERLIN — Nations that have ordered Airbus' A400M military transport plane held a new round of negotiations with parent company EADS today ahead of a weekend deadline to find a solution to the troubled project, an official said.
The talks in Berlin were the third round in as many weeks. The manufacturer wants a decision by the end of the month.
EADS is urging the seven customer nations — Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey — to increase their funding for the aircraft's construction, which is now four years behind schedule and more than $7 billion over budget.
The industry delegation was being led by EADS CEO Louis Gallois and the chief of its planemaking subsidiary, Airbus, Tom Enders, a source close to the negotiations said.
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Germany's Defense Ministry declined to comment on a report today in the Financial Times Deutschland that Germany was offering a loan guarantee to EADS instead of fresh money. The report cited unidentified sources close to the negotiations.
German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has said his country "wants the A400M, but not at any price."
The defense officials and the industry are trying to reach a compromise on Airbus' claim that it can't afford to produce 180 planes under the original, fixed-price contract from 2003.
EADS has given the customer governments until the end of January to decide upon the funding, but it's far from clear that the deadline can be met. Defense ministers will meet in Istanbul, Turkey, on Feb. 4 and 5.
The A400M had its maiden flight last month. The four-engine turboprop is seen as inhabiting an important niche market between the Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules, which carries only half the payload, and Boeing's C-17 Globemaster III, which is larger, costlier, and less tactically versatile.