Airbus A380 upgrade waits in the wings at Paris Airshow

A new fuel-efficient wingtip extension or winglet is seen on an Airbus A380 at Le Bourget, France. (Reuters)
Updated 18 June 2017
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Airbus A380 upgrade waits in the wings at Paris Airshow

PARIS: Airbus is preparing to roll out a novel A380 wingtip design to rally support for the world’s largest passenger jet by improving its fuel efficiency, according to a prototype seen on Saturday.
A Reuters photographer got up close to the split wingtip, which has been installed on an A380 belonging to the Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget airport, where the Paris Airshow opens on Monday.
It confirms an upgrade reported by Reuters and Usine Nouvelle on Friday. Airbus declined to comment.
Drag-reducing “scimitar” split wingtips have been used on Boeing’s medium-haul Boeing 737 MAX but never on a jetliner the size of the A380, which has a 79.9-meter wingspan.
The aircraft sporting the prototype “winglet” will be towed out to join others on display at the air show, giving airlines a glimpse of an improvement that Airbus hopes will turn around weak sales of its flagship double-decker.
However, a new clash is looming with rival Boeing over the future for such four-engined passenger aircraft, which have seen production fall and which also include the Boeing 747-8.
Boeing looks set to revise down or even scrap its 20-year forecast for such “very large aircraft” in a survey next week.
“The very big airplane market for the last 10-15 years has been moving downward and downward,” Marketing Vice President Randy Tinseth told the Paris Air Forum on Friday.
“That very big end of the market, maybe 1 percent, is going to be very, very small,” he said, adding that the 555-seat A380 would have to be made longer to become economic and that there was little market for such a large plane.
Eric Schulz, president of civil aerospace at Rolls-Royce, whose engines are offered on the A380, told the same conference that travel congestion underpinned demand for big jumbos.
“I am convinced that without a massive and significant improvement in airport installations and air traffic control routes, there will be still a lot of congested routes and if anything the city pairs will grow for bigger airplanes.”
But he said questions remain over to what extent that demand would be met by four-engined jets like the A380 or big twinjets closer to 400 seats, like the Boeing 777-9 and Airbus A350-1000.
Airbus last week revised down its forecast for the A380 category by 6 percent to 1,184 aircraft, though at 4 percent of total deliveries this remains more optimistic than Boeing.


Iran sanctions shadow falls on smaller German banks

Updated 27 May 2018
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Iran sanctions shadow falls on smaller German banks

  • Some German companies plan to press on with Iran dealings
  • German exports to Iran rose 15.5 percent last year

Germany’s biggest lenders have shied away from business with Iran after past penalties for breaching US sanctions, but smaller banks have leapt on opportunities afforded by the nuclear deal rejected by Donald Trump.

There are just months to go until a November deadline issued by Washington after the US president abandoned a hard-fought agreement that loosened business restrictions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for Tehran giving up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

But some firms plan to press on in their dealings with Iran despite the looming threat of penalties.

“We will continue to serve our clients,” for now, said Patrizia Melfi, a director at the “international competence center” (KCI) founded by six cooperative savings banks in the small town of Tuttlingen in southwest Germany.

The center, which supports companies operating in sensitive markets like Iran or Sudan, has seen demand “rising sharply in the last few years, from firms listed on the Dax (Germany’s index of blue-chip firms), from all over Germany and from Switzerland,” she added.

German exports to Iran have grown since the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, adding 15.5 percent last year to reach almost €2.6 billion ($3.0 billion) after 22-percent growth in 2016.

Such figures remain vanishingly small compared with Germany’s €111.5 billion in exports to the US — its top customer.

Nevertheless, the KCI will “wait and see what the sanctions look like” before turning away from Iran, Melfi said.

Already, firms dealing with Tehran must take great care not to fall foul of US restrictions.

Transactions are carried out in euros, and the KCI does not deal with businesses that have American citizens or green card resident holders on their boards.

What’s more, products sold to Iran cannot contain more than 10 percent of parts manufactured in the US.

One of the most important inputs for the business is “courage among our managers” given the high risks involved, Melfi said.

Germany’s two biggest banks, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, avoid Iran completely after being slapped with harsh fines in 2015 over their dealings there, with Deutsche alone paying $258 million in penalties.

DZ Bank, which operates as a central bank for more than 1,000 local co-op lenders, is withdrawing completely from payment services there, a spokesman told AFP.
That left KCI to seek out the German branch of Iranian state-owned bank Melli in Hamburg.

Even that linkage could break if Iran’s biggest business bank appears on a US list of barred businesses as it has before.

Meanwhile, among Germany’s roughly 390 Sparkasse savings banks, business with the regime is mostly limited to producing documents linked to export contracts.
“We will be looking even more closely at those” in the future, a person familiar with the trade told AFP.

Elsewhere in the German economy, the European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIH) founded in 1971 is another conduit to Tehran.

Also based in Hamburg, it for now remains “fully available to you with our products and services,” the bank assures clients on its website, although “business policy decisions by European banks may result in short term or medium term restrictions on payments.”

Neither does the Bundesbank (German central bank) believe that much has so far changed for business with Iran.

“Only the European Union’s sanctions regime will be decisive,” if and when it is changed, the institution told AFP.

Any payment involving an Iranian party would have to be approved by the Bundesbank if things return to their pre-January 2016 state.

German banking lobby group Kreditwirtschaft has called on Berlin and other EU nations to clarify their stance — and to make sure banks and their clients are “effectively protected against possible American sanctions.”

KCI’s Melfi said time is running out for EU governments to act.

“Many firms just want to stop anything with Iran, since they can’t calculate the risk of staying,” she noted.

On Friday for the first time since the Iran nuclear deal came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered in Vienna — at Iran’s request — without the US, to discuss how to save the agreement.

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