© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Airbus is seen on a building in Toulouse, France, March 11, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo
By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) -Airbus slowed the production ramp-up of its best-selling A320neo-family jet and targeted 2023 jet deliveries in line with its original estimate for last year as the world’s largest planemaker bowed to industrial pressure on supplies.
The France-based group also targeted an adjusted operating profit of 6.0 billion euros ($6.4 billion) in 2023 after posting a stronger than expected 5.627 billion for last year, up 16% from 2021 and helped by positive pension effects.
The new targets for single-aisle jets confirm a shallower trajectory disclosed by industry sources last month, with the goal of 65 A320neo-family jets a month slipping to end-2024 and the rate of 75 slipping to 2026 from “middle of the decade”.
“We are adapting our production to match supply,” Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said on Thursday.
Industry sources have said Airbus is currently producing 45 of the workhorse jets a month.
Revenues rose 13% to 58.763 billion euros, buoyed by higher deliveries compared to the previous year and a strong dollar.
Airbus delivered 661 jets last year, up 8%, but fell well below its original target of 720 units, which was later trimmed to 700 and ultimately abandoned weeks before end-year.
In a results statement, Faury blamed an “adverse operating environment that prevented our supply chain from recovering at the pace we expected”.
In January, Reuters reported that Airbus was tempering the pace of production increases and cited a senior industry source saying the delivery goal may not significantly exceed 720 jets.
In an internal call last week, Faury deplored weaker than expected January deliveries and warned executives Airbus must not deliver fewer jets this year than it had targeted in 2022.
Airbus confirmed it would, however, increase A330neo wide-body output to 4 a month in 2024 from around 3 now.
It announced plans to hike A350 output to 9 a month at the end of 2025 from around 6 now after selling 40 of the jets to Air India as part of a record deal.
The decision to push towards pre-COVID levels reflects growing demand for wide-body jets. Industry sources had previously said A350 output was scheduled to remain steady at 6 a month throughout 2024 and 2025, up from 5.6 a month in 2023.
The Wall Street Journal reported higher output on Tuesday.
In other business, Airbus took a fresh charge for its A400M military airlifter, bringing the 2022 hit to 477 million euros. The loss of two imaging satellites in the December failure of Italy’s Vega C rocket also weighed on defence and space profits.
Airbus’ net cash rose to 9.4 billion euros, closing in on a threshold previously identified for potential share buybacks.
Faury told investors in September he would discuss buybacks with the board “as soon as we hit the 10 billion euros mark.”
($1 = 0.9344 euros)