Airbus CEO defends outlook, ramps up A320 production

Going 'full throttle' on Airbus A350 delivery: CEO

The CEO of Airbus has defended the company's cautious outlook as the group revealed plans to boost production of its A320 aircraft after a profit hike in 2013.

"We have always been cautious people… we're making steady progress but it's hard work and there are a lot of uncertainties," Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders told CNBC on Wednesday.

Enders admitted that the company had faced some challenges over the past year, including a charge on the development of its newest model, the A350.

Higher-than-expected costs saw the company take a 434 million euro ($596 million) charge on the program, which Enders described as "not absolutely surprising."

But he added: "I still feel pretty good about the program, the program is running very well. We are on track with the target for this year, that is first deliveries for customers towards the end of the year."

Enders's comments came as the French aircraft maker – previously called EADS - said it would gradually increase production of its single-aisle A320 jets to 46 each month by the second quarter of 2016, from 42 currently.

It follows growing demand for more fuel-efficient aircraft from customers. In October last year, Boeing said it would increase production of its rival 737 jets to 47 each month by 2017.

An Airbus A320 in manufacturer livery.
Source: Airbus

(Read more: Airbus heading back to number 1 in deliveries: CEO)

For 2013, Airbus reported a 21 percent hike in full-year operating profit before one-off items to 3.6 billion euros ($4.95 billion). Revenue was 5 percent higher in 2013, at 59.3 billion euros.

The company in January reported record new plane orders for 2013 of 1,619 aircraft - beating its 1,200 target.

For the year ahead, however, Airbus said it expects a "moderate return" on sales growth and flat revenues compared to 2013. Deliveries are expected to be similar to the previous year.

And despite a heavy reliance on emerging markets - which have come under pressure since the start of the year - the company said it "assumes no major disruptions" in the world economy and air traffic in 2014.

Shares in Airbus Group turned higher on Wednesday after initially falling following the results. At 12.30 p.m. London time they were up 1.64 percent.

(Read more: This will be our biggest market by far: Airbus)

Formerly known as EADS, the aerospace group changed its name to Airbus at the end of last year as part of a broader restructuring designed to double margins to 10 percent by the mid-decade.

It combined its defense and space subsidiaries into a new Airbus Defense and Space Division, which sits alongside two other divisions: Airbus and Airbus Helicopters.

"2013 was an important and eventful year for the group, not least because of the far-reaching make-over of our governance, shareholder structure and strategy," Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders said in a statement Wednesday.

"The restructuring and transformation efforts of Airbus Defense and Space as well as Airbus Helicopters are progressing well and will enhance the competitiveness and profitability of these businesses."

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