Aerospace group EADS
A board meeting ended with no announcement or comments from the Franco-German-led company or its leading shareholders.
French media reports said the board would enact a political agreement that provides for top posts to rotate between executives from France and Germany every five years.
That would pave the way for a smooth handover in mid-2012 and avoid a repeat of past tensions at Europe's leading aerospace group, which was founded in 2000 from a merger of aerospace assets from France, Germany and Spain.
Gallois is expected to hand over the CEO role to German-born Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders when his mandate expires in mid-2012, allowing Airbus No. 2 Fabrice Bregier, a Frenchman, to step up as the head of the world's largest commercial jetmaker and spearhead its competition with U.S. rival Boeing
German carmaker Daimler
Arnaud Lagardere, head of Lagardere, is expected to replace Bodo Uebber, the finance director of Daimler, as EADS chairman under a 2007 accord between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel aimed at ridding the company of past tensions.
The main senior appointments are not seen as in doubt but the discussion comes at a delicate time as France and Germany, which exercise influence over EADS through a public-private shareholder pact, focus intensely on Europe's debt crisis.
The French government has asked for more information about the way forward, a person familiar with the matter said.
An analyst of Franco-German industrial activities who is usually well briefed on political decisions affecting EADS said the French government had unexpectedly held up the process.
The French government is saying that now is not the time, the analyst said, asking not to be named.
Another source familiar with the discussions said, however, that more fine-tuning was needed on all sides to complete the handover arrangements.
There was no immediate comment from the French government. EADS and Airbus declined to comment on the board discussions.
ROOM FOR MANEUVER
The appointments also coincide with equally delicate changes in the EADS structure after the German government agreed to buy a third of carmaker Daimler's stake to prevent the shares disappearing on the market and upsetting the ownership balance.
Daimler has offered to remain a steward for German interests by keeping voting rights for its shares.
The EADS shareholder pact is labyrinthine in its complexity but is seen as one of the most important charters of Franco-German efforts to achieve more integration alongside the euro. The direction of one of Europe's most strategic companies and its 100,000 high-tech jobs are both sensitive political issues.
Merkel and Sarkozy joined other European leaders in Brussels late on Thursday for what France billed as a last chance summit to prevent a collapse of the single European currency.
Although there is no connection between EADS and the crisis talks, the delayed management decision is seen by some as a politically prudent move for France to keep some extra room for manoeuvre while waiting to see how events unfold in coming weeks.
Governments don't tick like normal investors. They have different agendas, sometimes hidden ones, the analyst said.
The EADS board will resume discussion of the top nominations and less senior appointments at its next meeting in January.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Derek Caney)