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Airbus shares plunge on reported US corruption probe

20th December 2018 - 13:36 GMT | by ​Agence France-Presse in Paris

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Shares in European aircraft maker Airbus tumbled more than 9% Thursday after French daily Le Monde reported it could face record fines of several billion dollars in a US corruption inquiry.

The newspaper said the US Department of Justice had opened a probe for 'improper practices' at the end of 2017 and informed Airbus it was under investigation at the end of the summer.

In a statement, the company said it was cooperating with US authorities. The inquiry stems from Airbus's disclosure in early 2016 that it had neglected to inform authorities about payments to middlemen in securing several contracts, in particular in Asia.

A few months later Britain's Serious Fraud Office opened a fraud, bribery and corruption inquiry over alleged 'irregularities' concerning third-party consultants.

It was cooperating with France's Financial Prosecutor's Office, which also launched an inquiry into the deals.

Airbus warned in October 2017 that the investigations could have a 'material impact' on its earnings. Earlier this year it disclosed that US authorities had requested information on the operations being investigated by Britain and France 'that could fall with US jurisdiction.'

If the Justice Department inquiry leads to a criminal court case against Airbus and it is found guilty of corruption, it could be excluded from bidding on international contracts for five years, Le Monde said.

At around 1220 GMT Airbus shares were down more than 5% at €82.34, having lost 9.6% at one stage on the Paris stock exchange, which was 1.5% lower overall.

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