Airbus adds €15b credit line, scraps dividend

European aviation giant Airbus said it would cancel the planned dividend payment for 2019 and also abandon its earnings forecasts for the current year. — Reuters pic
European aviation giant Airbus said it would cancel the planned dividend payment for 2019 and also abandon its earnings forecasts for the current year. — Reuters pic

PARIS, March 23 — Airbus boosted its liquidity with a €15 billion (RM71.1 billion) expanded credit facility today while suspending its 2020 outlook in response to the coronavirus crisis that has grounded much of the global airlines fleet.

The European planemaker also joined US rival Boeing in scrapping its 2019 dividend, worth a total of 1.4 billion euros. It also said it would suspend the voluntary top-up of staff pension schemes.

“These measures are designed to protect the future of Airbus and to ensure we can resume normal business or future business as soon as the situation improves,” CEO Guillaume Faury told reporters.

Airbus has not drawn down any credit lines and said it had enough liquidity to cope with the coronavirus with some €30 billion worth of liquidity available.

“We have a lot of runway with this €30 billion,” Chief Financial Officer Dominik Asam said.

Airbus shares fell 10 per cent versus a wider French CAC40 market index down by around 4 per cent.

Faury called for “strong government help” for airlines across the world that have been forced to ground fleets, as well as for distressed aerospace suppliers.

The French government has offered €300 billion of loan guarantees to help companies, but Airbus said its own credit facility was commercial and did not fall under the scheme.

Boeing, already battered by the year-old grounding of its 737 MAX airliner, last week called for US$60 billion (RM266.6 billion) in US support for the US aerospace sector.

Partial production

Faury said it would become increasingly difficult to deliver jets and some would be stored. Most airlines continue to pay deposits even though many have called for deferrals, he said.

Airbus said it would use customer financing “very selectively” to help distressed airlines and that it expected leasing companies, which are involved in almost half of its deliveries, to play their role as a “shock absorber”.

Airbus also said it had identified operational measures to save cash as it resumed partial production at factories in France and Spain after a four-day shutdown.

Airbus, which sources say had been producing 58 single-aisle jets a month before the crisis, declined to say at what rate it would resume output.

Factories have installed extra spacing between workers and shorter shift times to allow for sterilising tools.

Its immediate goal is to maintain parts flowing from a fragile supply chain at a sustainable rate, Faury said.

“We need to stabilise and see from what base we can restart,” he told analysts.

Industry executives say shortages are beginning to emerge in the supply chain and some contractors have paused production.

Germany’s MTU Aero Engines, which is a supplier to Pratt & Whitney engines used on many Airbus single-aisle jets, said it would halt output for three weeks from March 30. — Reuters

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