Feb. 26 - Airbus will increase jetliner production after unveiling higher 2013 profits. But as Hayley Plattt reports the results were clouded by cautious forecasts for the coming year and fresh charges for its newest A350 model.
It's one of the planemaker's best sellers. In fact Airbus has so many orders for its A320 it's upping production by 4 aircraft a month to 46. That's just 1 behind Boeing's monthly target. It secured more than 1,600 plane orders in total for 2013 - 400 more than predicted. And it's sold out of A380s for the next two years. Airbus CFO Harald Wilhelm says the newer models are keeping them busy too. SOUNDBITE: Harald Wilhelm, CFO, Airbus, saying (English): "First and foremost to make sure we can deliver the A350 by the end of the year and we are well on track. We should have additional flight test aircrafts in the air today. And to prepare the Neo, i.e. the A320 reengineering with an entry into service in 2015. We just decided today to raise the single isle to 46, so that needs to be prepared, so we are busy enough." The strong sales have helped push profits at Europe's largest planemaker to slightly ahead of expectations. It posted a 21 percent rise in net income for the year, despite a charge of nearly half a billion euros for delays to its A350 passenger jet programme. Revenue rose 5 percent to almost 60 billion euros. But cuts in defence budgets, particularly in the U.S. are still a worry. SOUNDBITE: Harald Wilhelm, CFO, Airbus, saying (English): "We project that basically flat revenues for 2014 and we're putting the new division, defence and space together. So the focus is to make that division more competitive in the future but we're starting from a very solid base." Airbus is also facing a tough battle over the future of its A330 which entered service 20 years ago. Until now it's been the planemaker's only truly lucrative wide-body jet. There are more than 1,000 in service but analysts say it's finally had its day. And with no new models in the pipeline - Airbus could face a sharp drop in deliveries from 2016.