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Airbus hit leaves investors flying without a radar

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The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

By Oliver Taslic

LONDON, June 25 (Reuters Breakingviews) -Frequent fliers are well acquainted with the frustration of endlessly circling an airport amid delays. Investors in the aviation sector are having to practise similar patience in their wait for the industry’s return to post-pandemic normalcy. Airbus’s AIR.PA profit warning on Tuesday, which pushed the planemaker’s shares down 11%, is a case in point.

The issues at Airbus’s U.S. rival Boeing BA.N are well known. But the $110 billion European company run by CEO Guillaume Faury has problems of its own. The planemaker had set a target to deliver around 800 commercial aircraft to clients this year – more than in 2023, but fewer than in 2019. Late on Monday, Faury trimmed that guidance to around 770, citing supply-chain difficulties including a shortage of engines and seats. He also cut Airbus’s operating profit and free cash flow targets.

It’s a sign that Airbus is struggling to capitalise on the manufacturing woes of Boeing. True, Faury’s company pulled in a record 2,094 net orders last year amid unexpectedly strong post-pandemic demand for flying. But without key parts, it’s tough to turn orders into revenue. There are many reasons why Airbus’s suppliers are struggling to meet their obligations, including widespread difficulties to ramp up production in the wake of Covid-19 lockdowns. Whatever the case, the uncertainty in itself is bad for Airbus’s stock. It now trades at about 20 times trailing 12-month earnings per share, compared with 27 times in early April, according to LSEG Datastream.

Supply-chain shockers are also a headache for the planemakers’ airline customers, many of which have struggled to get their share prices back to pre-pandemic levels. Granted, fewer plane deliveries may reduce capacity, helping to push up fares. On the other hand, a shortage of supply means flying older aircraft for longer, increasing maintenance costs and boosting the cost of leasing amid a tight market. Either way, it’s another sign that CEOs in the sector are still grappling with supply-chain uncertainties that other industries have mostly left behind. The aviation industry continues to be exceptional for all the wrong reasons.

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Airbus on June 24 cut several key industrial and financial targets and announced a 900 million euro ($965 million) charge related to its space activities.

The European planemaker now expects to deliver roughly 770 commercial aircraft this year, compared with previous guidance of around 800. The company cited a deteriorating supply chain, particularly for engines and seats.

Airbus also reduced its 2024 operating profit target to around 5.5 billion euros, from between 6.5 billion euros and 7.5 billion euros previously. Free cash flow before customer financing is now expected to come in at around 3.5 billion euros, compared with around 4 billion euros previously.

Shares in Airbus were down 10.81% to 132.68 euros as of 0835 GMT on June 25.

Commercial aircraft deliveries for Airbus and Boeing https://reut.rs/3VTAD66

Share price performance this year for Airbus and Boeing https://reut.rs/3zgB5CR

Editing by Liam Proud and Streisand Neto


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