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Activist fund TCI backs EADS boss as defense cuts loom

Logo of EADS is seen at the European aerospace and defence group EADS headquarters in Les Mureaux near Paris January 12, 2011. REUTERS/Charl
Logo of EADS is seen at the European aerospace and defence group EADS headquarters in Les Mureaux near Paris January 12, 2011. REUTERS/Charl

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON (Reuters) - The head of hedge fund TCI said he is backing the boss of aerospace giant EADS in his "aggressive" approach to slash costs and grow profit, and expects management to announce further cuts in its defense unit soon.

Chris Cooper-Hohn, whose TCI owns more than 1 percent of EADS' share capital, said he believes EADS is set to benefit as its management focuses on commercial aircraft production and shields the firm from undue meddling from government shareholders in France and Germany.

"We believe the company is in the process of doubling and then tripling its profitability," Cooper-Hohn told an audience at the Ira Sohn conference in London on Thursday.

Cooper-Hohn, an aggressive activist investor with a record of successfully taking on high-profile executives, said EADS had a $1 trillion backlog of orders, would improve margins as its pricing power strengthened, and was in a better position to cut costs now negative political influences had been neutralized.

"Governments are just about the worst owners of companies you can imagine," he said.

EADS announced in July it would combine its defense and space subsidiaries and rename the group after its Airbus aircraft making brand, starting from January 1. The restructuring is due to be completed by July 2014.

The company is planning to cut jobs and costs in its defense division, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted CEO Thomas Enders as saying earlier this week.

Earlier this year, TCI demanded that Enders sell EADS' stake in fighter jet maker Dassault Aviation , saying it was a "poor use of capital".

TCI recently emerged as the second largest shareholder in Britain's newly-privatized Royal Mail . Cooper-Hohn said he was a big believer in privatized companies because of the "transformation" possible once it is free of government control.

On Thursday he also predicted strong growth at Australian rail freight company Aurizon , which TCI has owned since its bought into its 2010 privatization.

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes; editing by David Evans)

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