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Thales appoints Proglio as chairman, Caine as CEO

The logo of French defence and electronics group Thales is seen at the company's headquarters in Neuilly, near Paris, May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

By Cyril Altmeyer

PARIS (Reuters) - French defense electronics group Thales appointed former EDF chief Henri Proglio as chairman on Tuesday and its second-in-command as CEO with shareholders the French state and Dassault Aviation setting aside differences over influence on the board.

The appointments continue a period of change at top French firms after Thales chief Jean-Bernard Levy resigned in October to run the state-controlled EDF (EDF.PA) power utility following Proglio's ouster.

Thales (TCFP.PA) said its board of directors elected Patrice Caine, 44, chief executive and charged him with preparing the separation of the role from the chairman, which would in turn go to Proglio, 65.

The appointments and the changes in its statutes are subject to confirmation at an annual general meeting due on Feb. 4, a spokesman said.

Though their appointments had been expected, the French state and Dassault were at odds over board influence until late Monday, causing a Monday board meeting to be delayed by a day.

Sources said on Monday the arrival of Proglio and Caine would require changes in the composition of the board, with the French state calling on Dassault to give up one of its seats to make way for Proglio.

Dassault (AVMD.PA) refused, however, as the loss of one of its four seats would create an imbalance in the face of the government, which would keep five, one of the sources said. Thales' board has 16 members in total.

Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron accepted late on Monday that Proglio, seen as close to the Dassault family, would replace one of the five directors representing the state rather than one of Dassault's four directors.

The French state has a 25 percent stake in Thales and Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA) 26 percent. They are bound by a shareholders agreement that runs at least until the end of 2016.

"Thales's two main shareholders, the French State and Dassault Aviation, welcome these appointments, which are in line with their shareholders' agreement, and will continue to support Thales's management," the company said in a statement after a board meeting.

(The story was corrected in the eighth paragraph to say Proglio seen as close to Dassault family instead of Proglio family)

(Reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; writing by Leigh Thomas, editing by David Evans)