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Airbus keeps outlook as first-quarter core earnings rise

Key Points
  • Airbus posted slightly higher than expected core first-quarter profits.
  • Cash outflows hit 4.3 billion euros in the quarter as the planemaker built inventories to ease industrial bottlenecks.
Visitors inspect a model Airbus SE A380 aircraft in an exhibition center at the aircraft maker's factory in Toulouse, France, on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.  Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

European planemaker Airbus stuck to its full-year financial targets after reporting slightly higher-than-expected core first-quarter profits, overshadowed by a heavy drain on cash as it stocked parts to ease industrial bottlenecks.

Quarterly revenues rose 24 percent from a year ago to 12.55 billion euros ($14 billion), while adjusted operating profit  jumped to 549 million euros from 14 million last year, driven by higher commercial jet deliveries.

A Reuters poll had given a mean forecast for revenues of 12.99 billion euros and an adjusted operating profit of 520 million.

Higher deliveries of A320neo jets, which sell at a premium to earlier models, and progress in reducing costs on the larger A350 contributed to the sharp rise in profits. But Airbus still faces snags in producing a longer-range A321 with new cabins.

"Airbus is working to improve execution in its internal industrial systems and monitoring engine performance," it said in a statement. Engine delays have also weighed on deliveries.

Excluding adjustments, earnings fell 9 percent partly as a result of a row over Germany's suspension of export licences to Saudi Arabia and costs for the A380 superjumbo, which Airbus has said it plans to shut down in 2021 due to poor sales.

Airbus suffered a cash outflow of 4.3 billion euros in the quarter as it built inventories but the company is expected to see that reverse course later in the year.

It reaffirmed 2019 targets including positive free cashflow of 4 billion euros and a 15 percent rise in operating profit.

Last week, Airbus' rival Boeing abandoned its 2019 financial outlook, halted share buybacks and said that lowered production due to the grounding of its 737 MAX jet after two crashes had cost it at least $1 billion so far.