Airbus parent company EADS is emerging from the global aviation slump, with strong demand for its commercial aircraft in emerging markets, EADS Chief Executive Louis Gallois said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters at the company's annual New Year's news conference, Gallois told reporters orders were "better than expected" in 2010, while the group's cash flow was "excellent."
"This shows the crisis is behind us," Gallois said in the western Paris suburb of Les Mureaux.
Still, profitability at the jet maker will continue to be hurt by costs incurred in sorting out Airbus' troubled A380 superjumbo program, he said. The group's underlying profitability "will be the same order of magnitude as in 2010, which means not satisfactory," he said.
EADS forecasts underlying profit of 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) for 2010.
Airbus will announce next week that orders and deliveries for its jets last year both topped 500, Gallois said. In 2009, Airbus took in 310 orders and delivered 498 aircraft.
Gallois's optimism was underscored by Airbus' announcement late Tuesday of a mega-order with Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo that the company hailed as the largest order in commercial aviation history.
IndiGo committed to buy 180 of Airbus' workhorse A320 single-aisle, medium-haul jets, including 150 of its planned eco-conscious replacement, the A320neo. The revamped A320 is planned to launch in 2016 and is being designed to be 15 percent more fuel efficient.
Gallois also expressed optimism that Airbus has finally solved manufacturing problems with its A380 superjumbo. He said production of the massive double-decker aircraft would hit two per month this year. Last year it delivered 18, missing its target of 20 after delivery of the last two was pushed back to 2011.
The executive also addressed the ongoing battle with Chicago-based Boeing Co. for a $35 billion contract to supply refueling aircraft for the U.S. Air Force.
A decision on the contract, which Airbus and Boeing have been fighting over since 2003, is expected in the first quarter, Gallois said.
"If we win it will be a true breakthrough," Gallois said. "It is an important business opportunity for Airbus and EADS, and we approach it as that — a business opportunity with a clear intention of making money," Gallois said.
The company is keen not to relive the experience of its other flagship military program, the A400M transporter, which came close to being scrapped after cost overruns and delays led to a showdown with customers including France, Germany and Britain.
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