One more strategic question that Airbus needs to decide, at least in the medium term, is whether to offer a second engine type on the A350. Pratt & Whitney is keen to present a geared turbofan to be developed for widebodies, but so far Airbus says it is happy with the Rolls-Royce Trent powerplant, and that any additional engine would have to be competitive with what is now available.
According to Enders, quite a few airlines have commended Airbus for going back to nickel-cadmium batteries on the A350s, given the current Boeing 787 grounding related to lithium-ion battery fires. He describes the decision as a de-risking effort rather than mistrust in the technology. “We have always had a Plan B, because we knew it was new technology. We de-risk our programs as much as we can.” Airbus does not rule out lithium-ion batteries on A350s sometime in the future. “We don't have the same supplier, it is a different chemistry,” he emphasizes.
MSN001, the aircraft slated to fly first later this year, will actually be equipped with lithium-ion batteries because there is not enough time to change the system ahead of first flight.
Referring to slow sales of the A380, Enders points out that “we need to sell more and we will.” He pins hopes on gaining more orders in Asia from new and existing customers and says the sales team is “adequately incentivized.” While not committing to a target for 2013, he says it “should not be too difficult” to exceed the 2012 performance, when Airbus just sold four of the aircraft.
Only 25 A380s are to be delivered in 2013, which has had a dampening effect on EADS' overall sales growth. But revenue growth is expected to pick up in 2014 along with higher A380 output. Airbus slowed down A380 production last year as a result of the wing rib feet cracks. European Aviation Safety Agency certification of the permanent repairs for the in-service fleet will be announced soon, but the modified new-production wings are not expected to be cleared until year-end.
Enders does not envision a price war between the Airbus A320NEO and the Boeing 737 MAX, but “it is pretty obvious our competitor is desperately trying to catch up with our successful NEO.” According to CFO Harald Wilhelm, there is some evidence of irrational pricing in some campaigns and Airbus might react on a case-by-case basis. Pricing is under more pressure for the current A320 version. And that is likely to increase the closer Airbus comes to the 2015 transition to the NEO.
This year, Airbus expects around 700 orders and 600-610 deliveries. Airbus reached 914 gross orders (833 net) in 2012 and delivered 588 aircraft.
EADS revenues were up 15% in 2012 reaching €56 billion. The operating profit increased by 29% to €2.1 billion and the net profit grew by 19% to €1.2 billion. Only moderate revenue growth is expected in 2013, partly because of fewer A380 deliveries. But the company targets a €3.5 billion operating profit. Management is proposing a dividend of 60 cents per share. That proposal has to be approved by the regular general assembly in May.