Airbus Hikes Dividend by 60%, Targets Another Boost in 2015

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Paris-traded Airbus Group reported results for 2014 Friday morning, and the European aircraft maker made the most noise by raising its annual dividend from €0.75 to €1.20 (about $0.84 to $1.35). The even better news for investors is the company’s stated goal of targeting additional increases in both earnings per share and dividends in 2015.

The company’s commercial aircraft division performed very well, with revenues up 7%. The company’s helicopter revenues rose 4% and defense business revenues were down 1% year-over-year. Global revenues totaled €60.71 billion ($68.14 billion), up 5% year-over-year.

Net income totaled €2.34 billion ($2.63 billion) and earnings per share rose 61% from €1.86 ($2.09) in 2013 to €2.99 ($3.36).

Airbus added 1,456 net new orders for commercial aircraft in 2014, down slightly from 1,503 net new orders in 2013. The backlog number 6,386 at the end of 2014 is valued at a record total of €857.5 billion ($962.5 billion).

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The company noted two production developments. Production of the A330 will drop from a recently announced nine per month to six per month in the first quarter of 2016. More important for Airbus — and for Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) — production of the A320 will rise to 50 per month beginning in the first quarter of 2017. Boeing already has announced plans to raise production of the competing 737 from 42 to 47 by 2017 and to 50 a month by 2018. Boeing has even suggested a raise to 60 a month is not out of the question.

Airbus and Boeing share at least a couple of problems. One is the escalating cost of building a new airplane. Boeing spent tens of billions on the 787, and Airbus did the same on its A380. At the press conference Friday morning in Munich, the Group CEO noted that the A380 super-jumbo jet finally would be cash positive on a unit basis in 2015. According to a report from Leeham, “definitely not on a program basis. That would be in our dreams, but we are humble people, not dreamers.”

The two companies also both face problems in their defense units as governments continue to cut back on defense spending. The development of the Airbus 400M, a multiuse tanker and freighter, has suffered delays and cost overruns, and Leeham reports, “There is substantial development and testing work still to be done and the industrial ramp up is problematic.”

For 2015 Airbus expects deliveries to be “slightly higher” than in 2014, and the company also expects to grow its order book. The Group expects an increase in revenues in 2015 and has targeted a “slight increase” in adjusted EBIT. As noted, the company expects to improve both its earnings per share and dividend next year.

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