Airbus Group lifts A330 output goal as profits meet expectations

Wed Feb 24, 2016 10:26am EST
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By Tim Hepher and Cyril Altmeyer

LONDON (Reuters) - Airbus Group (AIR.PA: Quote) performed a partial U-turn on plans to cut production of its profitable A330 aircraft on Wednesday, easing the delicate transition to newer models as it posted 2015 profits in line with expectations on Wednesday.

The European planemaker said it now planned to build seven A330 wide-body jets per month from 2017, partially unwinding recent staggered cuts in output to six from 10 a month as it prepares for its new A350 jetliner and an A330 upgrade.

Demand for the current generation of jets such as the 250- to 300-seat A330 faces a broad decline as a new generation of fuel-saving airplanes enters the market.

But Airbus's most profitable wide-body jet has gained some respite due to the collapse in oil prices, which have made some airlines pause investment in newer, more efficient models.

The move to reconsider the decline of one of its two main sources of cash and profits came weeks after Iran provisionally agreed to buy 45 A330 jets as part of a $27 billion deal following the lifting of sanctions, but Airbus said it would have gone ahead anyway because of other deals.

That should be enough to put a floor under production until a revamped version of the A330 enters service at the end of 2017, Chief Executive Tom Enders said.

Rival Boeing (BA.N: Quote) says that even with new engines, the upgraded A330neo will be made obsolete by its 787 Dreamliner and even Airbus's own A350.

The A330 uptick contrasted with investor nerves just over a year ago when Airbus unveiled plans to cut output.   Continued...

A flight test engineer holds an Airbus Group flag after the first flight of the Airbus A320neo (New Engine Option) in Colomiers near Toulouse, southwestern France, September 25, 2014. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau