Airbus flies into new era with change of CEO

Guillaume Faury succeeds Tom Enders as the CEO of Airbus. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 April 2019
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Airbus flies into new era with change of CEO

  • Faury will inherit a financially sound, highly profitable business with an order book of 7,350 passenger planes
  • Analysts see Airbus as having an opportunity to profit from the booming airline market, particularly in Asia

PARIS: Frenchman Guillaume Faury takes over as CEO of European aerospace giant Airbus on Wednesday, looking to benefit from the current troubles of rival Boeing and limit potential disruption from Brexit and Donald Trump’s trade threats.
The 51-year-old will replace Tom Enders, who is stepping down after five years leading the France-based group whose 129,000 employees manufacture airliners, helicopters and satellites.
Enders oversaw further expansion of the group, but his rein was clouded by a recent decision to scrap the loss-making A380 super-jumbo range of Airbus planes as well as multiple probes into suspect payments.
The German’s retirement package — worth 37 million euros ($41 million) including pension and stocks — has sparked controversy in France and a pledge from the government that it will legislate to limit huge corporate payoffs.
Faury will inherit a financially sound, highly profitable business with an order book of 7,350 passenger planes, which would be enough to keep factories running for a decade at current production rates.
Analysts see Airbus as having an opportunity to profit from the booming airline market, particularly in Asia, and from the global grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX plane after two recent deadly crashes involving the popular new airliner.
“They simply need to use this window of Boeing weakness to hoover up orders in Asia, if they can,” said aerospace analyst Neil Wilson at Markets.com, an online financial trading platform.
According to industry body IATA, Asia will account for most of growth in the industry over the next 20 years, with more than half of the new passenger traffic coming from the region.

But Faury will also have several tricky issues in his inbox, including handling the fall-out from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, which threatens to disrupt the company’s long and complicated supply chains.
“Brexit could well mean a complete rethink of long-term manufacturing strategy for Airbus and brave decisions may need to be made unless a satisfactory outcome can be agreed by UK and Brussels,” independent aviation analyst Howard Wheeldon told AFP.
Enders branded the British government’s handling of Brexit a “disgrace” in January and warned that a “no deal” exit would led to “very harmful decisions” affecting the production of airline wings in southwest England.
The US is another source of worry for the group after US President Trump lashed out again at the EU this week, vowing to impose fresh tariffs over subsidies to Airbus.
For more than a decade, Washington and Brussels have accused each other of unfairly subsidising Boeing and Airbus respectively and have fought repeated battles at the World Trade Organization, which polices global trade rules.

Faury will also be wary of multiple investigations in France, Britain and the United States into possible bribes paid to win contracts between 2008 and 2013 that could cause more embarrassment — and lead to costly fines or prosecutions.
The inquiries stem from Airbus’s own disclosure in early 2016 of undisclosed payments to middlemen in securing several contracts, in particular in Asia.
If convicted in the US, it would effectively be shut out of defense and civil aviation contracts for years — which would be a boon for Boeing.
Faury, a married father of three, will take over after a board meeting in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
He has spent most of his career in the aerospace industry, specializing in helicopters.
He started his career in the French defense ministry before joining Airbus’ helicopter division in 1998.
In 2009, he left for a four-year stint in research and development at French car group Peugeot before rejoining Airbus.
In February 2018, he became head of the civil aviation division, the company’s biggest and most high-profile, which is considered the launching pad for the groups’ top job.


WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: China distracts from Strait of Hormuz

In this May 5, 2019 photo issued by Karatzas Images, showing the British oil tanker Stena Impero at unknown location, which is believed to have been captured by Iran. (AP)
Updated 18 min 55 sec ago
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WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: China distracts from Strait of Hormuz

  • China’s economy slowed to the weakest pace since quarterly data began in 1992 amid the ongoing trade standoff with the US, while monthly indicators provided signs of some stabilization emerging

RIYADH: Crude oil prices deteriorated despite rising tensions in the Arabian Gulf toward the end of the week. Brent crude prices dropped to $62.47 and WTI dropped to $55.63 per barrel.
WTI recorded its biggest weekly decline in seven weeks, having fallen sharply earlier in the week on hopes that the situation in the Gulf would improve along with parallel worries about global demand. At the same time, a major storm hurt output in the Gulf of Mexico, where production was down by almost a fifth in its wake.
We saw a continuation of the theme of previous weeks where the oil price largely ignored events in and around the Strait of Hormuz, even after Iran seized two British-flagged oil tankers.
Instead, the market reacted to Iran’s potential nuclear deal with the US that would include permanent enhanced nuclear inspections in return for the lifting of sanctions.
China’s crude oil throughput rose to a record in June, up 7.7 percent from a year earlier, following the start-up of two large new refineries. Crude oil processing reached 13.07 million bpd, beating the previous record in April of 12.68 million bpd.
Despite strong oil demand from China, oil prices slipped after Beijing posted its slowest quarterly economic growth in at least 27 years, reinforcing concerns about demand in the world’s largest crude oil importer.
China’s economy slowed to the weakest pace since quarterly data began in 1992 amid the ongoing trade standoff with the US, while monthly indicators provided signs of some stabilization emerging.
The International Energy Agency pounced on that news and published a shaky oil demand outlook and reduced its 2019 oil demand forecast to 1.1 million bpd, down from its initial forecast of 1.5 million bpd, due to the slowing global economy and the US.-China trade war.
Yet the economic impact of the US-China trade argument is not an oil market-reflective. Surprisingly, some economists suggest that the trade dispute could spark a global recession, sending incremental oil demand lower. This has caused growing concern about supply and poor economic growth that has pushed oil prices lower, based purely on sentiment.
Arabian Gulf crude grades have further strengthened backed by demand uptick from North Asian refineries.
Norway’s crude oil production slipped to the lowest in three decades to 1.38 million bpd in April from 1.387 million bpd in March and 1.531 million bpd a year ago.

Faisal Faeq is an energy and oil marketing adviser. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. Twitter:@faisalfaeq