Shares in Airbus fell for a second day on Thursday as management scrambled to reassure investors about the future of its superjumbo A380 project and the group’s medium to long term financial prospects.
The European aerospace and defence group’s shares fell 10 per cent on Wednesday after it reined in earnings expectations for 2016 and Harald Wilhelm, chief financial officer, suggested Airbus could “discontinue” the A380 as early as 2018.
Mr Wilhelm told analysts in London, without elaborating further, that Airbus would break even on the A380 through 2018, “if we would do something on the product, or even if we would discontinue the product”.
On Thursday, following an angry reaction from some airline customers, Airbus sought to play down concerns that the A380 would be abandoned, instead emphasising that improving and modifying the superjumbo was the most likely scenario. The largest customer is Dubai-based Emirates Airline.
Fabrice Brégier, who leads Airbus’ passenger jet division, said the development of a new engine model as well as a stretch variant would happen “one day”, asking “where is the problem with the A380?”
The four-engine A380 entered service in 2007, just before the financial crisis, and has since struggled to generate large sales. It has long prompted market speculation and internal debate at Airbus about the future of the programme.
As shares in Airbus fell 4 per cent on Thursday, Airbus also sought to reassure investors about the profitability of the group, playing down concerns about cuts to production rates amid the transition from the existing A330 wide-body jet to a new version of the aircraft, called the A330 Neo, or new engine option.
“Yes, there is a risk the [production] rate will come down, but this is not the point,” said Mr Wilhelm. “The point is that this is the way forward for the [A330] Neo that will then ramp up, and that will provide a clear bridge into profitability.”
He added that divestments would boost dividends as well in the short term. Airbus in September said it would streamline its defence and space division, and sell businesses with some €2bn in revenue.
Airbus’ statement on Wednesday that earnings would be flat in 2016, compared with analysts’ consensus expectations for 6 per cent growth, came as the group revealed that delivery of its new A350 jet to first customer Qatar Airways had been delayed at the last minute.
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