updated 12/19/2007 9:47:52 AM ET 2007-12-19T14:47:52

Airbus parent company EADS announced Wednesday it has chosen France's Latecoere, Germany's MT Aerospace and Britain's GKN as preferred bidders for six factories it is selling off in a major restructing.

The decision was a blow to Kansas-based Spirit Aerosystems Inc., which had been reported to be the favored bidder for all six sites.

EADS said in a statement it hoped to make "substantial progress" on the deals in the first quarter of 2008. Five of the plants being sold off are Airbus sites, while one, in Augsburg, Germany, is part of EADS Defence & Security.

The Airbus plants employ 7,400 people and represented euro1.4 billion (US$2 billion) of the company's cost base in 2007, the statement said.

EADS _ or European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. NV _ and subsidiary Airbus are in talks on a full selloff of Britain's Filton plant, which makes wings and sub-assemblies, to GKN.

The company is in talks on forming joint ventures with a substantial minority stake for EADS for the other five sites: Meault and Saint-Nazaire in France, and Nordenham, Varel and Augsburg in Germany.

EADS said the joint structure would help Airbus monitor the transition during the development of the mid-range A350 XWB, which it hopes will compete with Boeing Corp.'s 787 Dreamliner.

The EADS board of directors, meeting in Amsterdam on Wednesday, authorized the management to hammer out details of the deals.

The international bidding process was announced in February as part of a broad companywide restructuring and cost-cutting program called Power 8. The plan foresees thousands of job cuts and factory closures, and is aimed at shoring up Airbus' finances after cost overruns and delays on its superjumbo A380 and the mid-range A350 jet.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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