SPIEGEL: Mr. Enders, were you approached over the past few weeks by headhunters? If so, did they offer you any interesting jobs?
Enders: No, why do you ask?
SPIEGEL: After your plans fell through for the merger of EADS with its British competitor BAE Systems , you were generally seen as the loser. Do you feel like your days as the boss are numbered?
Enders: Not at all. I realized right from the start that we were taking a considerable risk with this project, but it was worthwhile. It's too bad that things didn't work out. The deal would have undoubtedly strengthened the European industry.
SPIEGEL: Have you considered throwing in the towel?
Enders: I told my supervisory board, of course, that I take responsibility for the failure. But the board, which had fully supported the merger, urged me to continue with my work. And then the next interesting challenge immediately followed, namely the question of how we pave the way for our long-standing core shareholders, Germany's Daimler and France's Lagardère, to exit the company in a way that is acceptable to everyone and, at the same time, reform our management structure? In December, we managed to make a breakthrough with an agreement that we wouldn't have thought possible last summer.
SPIEGEL: For the time being, though, your plan has gone all to pieces and you have annoyed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opposed the deal right from the start.
Enders: As we say in Germany, shards bring good luck! But the irony of the story is that without the merger debate during the summer, we would have never managed in early December to dissolve the pact among our core shareholders, eliminate the veto rights (effectively enjoyed by the governments of France and Germany over the past decade) or achieve the withdrawal of these countries from management decisions.
SPIEGEL: After the agreement was reached, the chancellor invited you to meet with her. What was the result of this meeting?
Enders: That shall remain confidential, but I can tell you that it was a constructive discussion full of trust.
SPIEGEL: When did you realize that the merger would fail, and what went wrong?
Enders: Shortly before we began our organized retreat. My main mistake was that I felt our project was industrially and politically compelling, and I thought it would be in the interest of all stakeholders. In the merged corporation, the German government would have had the same rights of co-determination as the British and the French, without purchasing blocks of shares worth billions. But, apparently, other considerations were more important in Berlin, although these were never openly discussed with us.
SPIEGEL: How could this happen to you, of all people? After all, you used to work on the planning staff of the German Defense Ministry.
Enders: That was probably too long ago. Nevertheless, in retrospect, I don't see any error in our approach. In addition to its 15 percent share in EADS, France had enjoyed special veto rights. Furthermore, the change in government had just taken place there -- and it was unclear whether the country's new leadership would be prepared to make any concessions. So we first talked with Paris, and shortly thereafter with London and Berlin. This sequence alone apparently did not meet with approval in Berlin. Ultimately there was probably a mixture of reasons why the merger failed.
SPIEGEL: And then did you drink away your frustration?
Enders: That's not my style. I prefer to let off steam in the mountains. But this is all water under the bridge now.
SPIEGEL: When you took the helm of EADS last June, you wanted to reduce the influence of government shareholders on the company. Instead, after the planned exit by Daimler and Lagardère, it's actually increasing. Are you disappointed?
Enders: No, in fact, I've achieved my objective.
SPIEGEL: Excuse me? Until recently, the French state and the Spanish government held over 20 percent of the shares. After the EADS shareholders' meeting in the spring and the purchase of shares by the German government via Germany's state-owned development bank, KfW, all three countries will control a total of 28 percent.
Enders: Yes, but according to our new corporate governance structure, the three governments will now only have very limited rights of intervention, comparable with a golden share, which could be used, for instance, to prevent a hostile takeover.
SPIEGEL: The German government apparently sees this differently. In its new aviation strategy, it is urging Germany to take a leading role in producing the successor model to the short and medium-range Airbus A320.
Enders: Many of the things in this paper are correct. But decisions concerning where and when we will engineer and produce aircraft in the future will be made by Airbus according to economic criteria -- and not by governments.
SPIEGEL: Berlin is threatening to withhold the planned development loan for the new long-range A350 aircraft.
Enders: You have to look at the situation calmly. After all, that's just politics. It's not so much a question of money here because our cash position is rather comfortable. It's primarily a question of whether Berlin supports the company and meets its obligations, just like Paris and London do. This is very carefully watched there. Furthermore, we already agreed years ago that our operation in Hamburg would gradually be expanded to become the center for the A320 family, and the jets of the successor generation in Europe would be assembled exclusively at that location. We cannot reasonably promise anything more now. Our organization is based on transnational and cross-divisional cooperation. Just imagine what would happen if all four Airbus nations made similar demands. This would completely torpedo the competitiveness of Airbus. No one in the EADS management team would accept this.
SPIEGEL: The governments could also use the supervisory board to put a spoke in your wheels. Berlin, Paris and Madrid appoint a total of five of the 12 members. If they formed an alliance, they could block important decisions such as changing production sites or taking over other companies.
Enders: Unfortunately word has not yet got around that, according to our new corporate governance structure, even if governments are shareholders, they have no influence on strategic and operative decisions. You won't find any civil servants or politicians on the supervisory board, just seasoned business professionals.
'We're Not Rushing Things'
SPIEGEL: Do you already have plans for what direction you'll take following the failed merger of BAE and EADS?
Enders: EADS is on course and we're making good progress on the business front. We are achieving double-digit growth with Airbus and Eurocopter. Astrium, our aerospace subsidiary, is strongly positioned and Cassidian, our defense division, will likely continue to achieve the highest return on sales of all our divisions for years to come. During the first half of the year, I will be busy with EADS 2.0 -- our new shareholder and management structure. Our strategy debate will probably go on until the middle of the year -- we aren't rushing things here. But it is now already clear that we will have to further enhance our profitability over the coming years. After all, the proportion of freely-traded shares in our company will soon rise to over 70 percent. These investors expect greater returns on their money. That's what we'll provide.
SPIEGEL: Do you still pursue the old EADS objective of achieving half your sales in civil aviation and half in the defense industry?
Enders: Following the failed merger with BAE, that has to be re-examined, of course, along with a number of other things. Defense spending by the governments in Germany, Europe and even the US will, at best, flatten out over the coming years. As a result, no one can avoid adapting. For instance, we are currently shedding 850 jobs at Cassidian. And, of course, this raises the question of whether we should focus even more intensively on our commercial business with aircraft and helicopters over the long term.
SPIEGEL: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is apparently of the opinion that the German defense industry should obtain more orders from abroad, for example, from Saudi Arabia. Could this be a solution for securing jobs?
Enders: Exports help, but you can only succeed with exports over the long term if there is a domestic order base. And that's the core issue. Incidentally, our company operates according to the principle that not everything that we can sell is sold to just anyone. A few years ago, we could have sold Tiger helicopter gunships to Libya. But, thank God, we decided against it.
SPIEGEL: And how did EADS Eurofighter jets make their way to Saudi Arabia?
Enders: Via our partner BAE Systems and the British government. They decide independently who they can deliver to, based on the applicable export regulations.
SPIEGEL: A foreign order that your company fought hard to win is currently giving you quite a headache: the sale of 15 Eurofighter jets to Austria. In Munich and Vienna investigations are underway against over a dozen individuals suspected of bribery and breach of trust, including former and current EADS employees. Why haven't you filed charges against these individuals yourself?
Enders: I had -- and still have to this day -- seen no indications that criminal acts have been committed in our area of responsibility. But following the most recent searches on our premises, we have commissioned yet another review, this time by external specialists. We want to provide an account of our own decision-making processes, and we are working in close cooperation with the authorities to accomplish this.
SPIEGEL: Kickbacks worth millions allegedly flowed via a shadowy network of companies, and individuals are suspected of receiving bribes to declare phony offset deals with German companies that purportedly benefited Austrian firms. Are you claiming that you, as the head of the EADS military division, knew nothing about this?
Enders: At the time, we were primarily busy figuring out how we could organize the enormous volume of follow-up deals for the Austrian economy that had been agreed in exchange for the Eurofighter sale. In order to accomplish this, we needed partners. But I didn't know anything about the secret realm of shadowy companies that allegedly stood behind these deals. We will hopefully soon clear this up.
SPIEGEL: How does all this fit together? Military commodities made in Germany are sought after around the world, yet Eurofighters could only be sold to Austria if the local industry was simultaneously boosted with orders from Germany?
Enders: That is common practice. When making defense purchases with tax money, many countries demand a corresponding economic input in their own country. If the European Union were to finally introduced binding regulations for this, I would be the first to welcome this move. But take a look at the website of the Austrian Economics Ministry in Vienna and you will see how they proudly present the extent to which Austrian industry has benefited from its partnership with EADS -- and with good reason. Today, Austrian companies are making huge sales as Airbus suppliers, and unfortunately this has been completely overlooked in the entire debate.
SPIEGEL: Your civilian jets are also apparently no longer selling as well as before. According to the most recent figures, Boeing, surpassed your subsidiary Airbus in terms of orders and deliveries last year.
Enders: Just a minute: We had a record year in 2012 -- in every respect and with every program. For the first time in 10 years, Boeing took the lead again in 2012 by a nose. They already set out to achieve that two years ago, and now they've managed to increase their production figures with the Dreamliner. But we still have the largest order book in the industry! That's what counts for me.
SPIEGEL: It's possible that Boeing accelerated its manufacturing a bit too quickly: Over the past few weeks, there has been a steady stream of terrible news about exploding batteries and fuel leaks. Have you already expressed your sympathy to the executives at Boeing headquarters?
Enders: We don't feel any sense of schadenfreude, and we've had enough start up problems of our own. I'm sure that we will experience a number of unpleasant surprises with our new long-range A350. This can hardly be avoided with the development of new aircraft, which is always risky and complex. You can't anticipate everything when breaking new ground technologically. I hope that our US colleagues will soon manage to get the Dreamliner back in the air again, where it belongs. With our A330, and soon also with the A350, we'll make life difficult enough for them as it is.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Enders, we thank you for this interview.