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Airbus and Safran agree to merge space launcher activities to keep up with competition

PARIS - Airbus Group and French engineering company Safran have agreed to merge their rocket launcher businesses into a new joint venture aimed at helping the European space sector stay globally competitive.

The two companies said in a statement Monday that they have signed a memorandum of understanding for the plan, for which financial figures were not disclosed, and that they hope the venture can start operating by the end of this year. Shares in the companies rose after the news.

The statement says the new venture would focus on developing the next generations of Ariane rockets and safeguarding "Europe's autonomous and reliable access to space."

French President Francois Hollande, whose government helps finance Ariane rockets, gave the proposed venture his blessing at a meeting with representatives of both companies Monday morning.

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