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Airbus set to replace Boeing as world's biggest aircraft maker

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 4/30/2019 Robert Wall

Airbus said first-quarter adjusted profit rose sharply, driven by increased plane deliveries with the European plane maker on pace to overtake Boeing to become the world's largest jetliner maker this year.

Airbus said adjusted earnings before interest and taxes, stripping out one-time items, rose to 549 million euros ($614 million) compared with 14 million euros the year prior. However, net profit fell 86% to 40 million euros.

Airbus delivered 162 airliners in the first quarter compared to 121 in the year-prior period, driving a 24% increase in sales to 12.55 billion euros.

Airbus stuck to guidance of delivering 880 to 890 airliners this year. Boeing was set to outproduce Airbus again this year before the U.S. plane maker cut production plans after the worldwide groundings of its 737 MAX planes in March. Barring further changes, Airbus becomes the largest plane maker for the first time since 2011.

Boeing last week suspended its full-year plane delivery forecast because of uncertainty over when MAX handovers can resume. It had projected between 895 to 905 commercial airliner deliveries before the MAX crisis hit.

Strong growth in global air travel has driven airlines' appetite for new, more fuel efficient planes. Airbus is boosting output of its A320 single-aisle jet to 60 aircraft a month by mid-year and has said output should reach 63 such aircraft in 2021. Boeing was poised to increase production of its 737, too, before reversing course in March crash of one of the planes in Ethiopia, the second fatal accident involving the new MAX version in less than five months.

Toulouse, France-based Airbus said it suffered 4.34 billion euros in free cash outflow before mergers, acquisitions and customer financing. The figure reflects higher inventory levels to pave the way for higher production and some delayed plane handovers. Airbus, which typically generates most of its free cash flow in the last weeks of the year, stuck to guidance of generating around 4 billion euros in free crash before mergers, acquisitions or customer financing.

Airbus took at one-time charge of 61 million euros linked its decision taken in February to shutter the A380 superjumbo program. The last of the double-deckers is due to be delivered in 2021. Airbus, in March, said it had begun talks with unions about the impact of up to 3,500 jobs linked to the A380, mostly in France and Germany.

The company also took a charge of 190 million euros as a result of the suspension of defense export licences to Saudi Arabia by the German government.

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