* EADS, buyer nations agree most financial aspects-sources
* Inflation clause, gadgets focus of final round of talks
* France hopes for A400M deal announcement next week (Adds French comment, extra Daimler quotes
PARIS, Feb 18 - A thorny inflation clause and a shopping list of military gadgets dominated closing stages of talks to rescue the delayed A400M troop plane on Thursday as France held out the prospect of a deal next week.
EADS (EAD.PA), the aircraft's manufacturer, said on Wednesday it had sought clarification of an international offer of support to avoid a collapse of the 20 billion euro ($27.1 billion) project under losses.
Sources familiar with the matter said most key financial aspects had been agreed, but EADS proposed to postpone a wish list of features put forward by some of the seven buyers -- Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey.
These could be retrofitted once the early production phase, which traditionally generates the most problems, had stabilised.
If early production is simplified, the company is not ruling out making the first delivery to France slightly earlier than the current target date of December 2012, the sources said. The plane was originally meant to enter service in 2009.
High-tech terrain-hugging software ordered by Germany is among several pieces of optional kit that have complicated production of the A400M, which is designed to drop troops and heavy equipment into combat while dodging multiple threats.
The sources said EADS also wants relief in a price inflation clause in the contract, an issue that could make a difference of hundreds of millions of euros, given the project's size.
A spokesman for EADS declined to comment.
Sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday EADS was close to agreement on a funding deal likely to include 3.5 billion euros of mixed types of support after a massive cost overrun.
That would leave EADS with losses of 1.7 billion euros on the project on top of 2.4 billion it has already written off, but details were being fine-tuned. [ID:nLDE61G0EO]
The French defence ministry said it hoped a final deal could be announced at a European Union meeting next week.
EU defence ministers are scheduled to meet in Palma de Mallorca on Feb. 24-25, with the A400M seen high on the agenda -- even though one of the buyers, Turkey, is not an EU member.
COMING TO AN AGREEMENT
The three-part deal taking shape involves a mixture of price increases, investment and a reduction in the number of planes initially delivered in order to reduce money lost on each plane.
A French defence spokesman said the offer included loans, but EADS is in talks with its auditors to avoid using that label as loans cannot be counted as revenue. That would in turn risk a bigger hit in provisions than the company hopes.
It seems that the discussions, the negotiations, between the governments and EADS are coming to an agreement. It seems like within the next two weeks, that's the best I know, Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Daimler (DAIGn.DE), the largest EADS shareholder, told Reuters Insider television. [ID:nWEB1072]
Zetsche underlined the stakes involved if EADS failed to win more A400M funding, saying Daimler, which owns 22.5 percent of EADS, would not step in with new money for the planemaker.
Asked if Daimler would take part in a capital increase if EADS had to turn to markets, he said, I can say clearly not.
He was speaking after Daimler shocked investors by scrapping a dividend and posting a bigger-than-expected 2009 loss. It warned the loss could be even wider when its accounts come to be audited, depending on the outcome of A400M talks. [ID:nLDE61G0LL] (Additional reporting by Angeline Ong, Michael Shields; Editing by John Stonestreet and Steve Orlofsky)