Airbus plunges to $2b loss in 2019 after bribery settlement

TOULOUSE (REUTERS) – Airbus plunged to a €1.36 billion (S$2.06 billion) net loss in 2019, weighed down by a multinational bribery settlement, but the European aerospace group pledged to increase operating profit and deliver 880 commercial jets this year.

Full-year adjusted operating income, which excludes the criminal settlement and other one-offs, rose 19 per cent to €6.946 billion and should top €7.5 billion in 2020, Airbus said. Revenue increased 11 per cent to €70.478 billion.

Airbus turned in a “strong underlying financial performance driven mainly by our commercial aircraft deliveries”, chief executive Guillaume Faury said in the company statement.

The group will focus on operational and cost improvements in 2020 as well as “reinforcing our company culture”, he added.

The net loss reflected a €1.21 billion charge on the A-400M military transporter programme as well as a provision for last month’s US$4 billion (S$5.56 billion) settlement with British, French and US prosecutors over past corrupt practices.

Airbus played down the potential damage from the virus outbreak currently rattling airlines and the broader global economy, endorsing traffic growth forecasts that “assume no major disruptions, including from the coronavirus”.

Raising its proposed dividend by 9 per cent to €1.80 per share, Airbus predicted full-year free cash flow of around €4 billion, improved from €3.51 billion in 2019.

The long-delayed A-400M programme delivered 14 planes in 2019, on schedule, but is now hampered by “increasingly challenging” obstacles including repeated extensions to a German export ban on Saudi Arabia, Airbus said.

For the fourth quarter, adjusted operating income fell 9 per cent to €2.8 billion, ahead of the €2.74 billion expected by analysts, according to an Airbus consensus poll. Quarterly revenue rose 4 per cent to €24.31 billion.

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