What you need to know about: Airbus

COMPANY VITAE: Boeing, Brexit and now the SFO. Triple trouble for the world's number two aerospace firm.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 05 Sep 2016

Formative years

Created by inter-governmental agreement between France, Germany and the UK dating from 1967, Airbus was effectively a huge state-sanctioned merger intended to provide a European commercial aircraft firm with the clout to take on Boeing.

But it took until 1987 and the twin-engined, fly-by-wire A320 for Airbus to make much impression on Seattle's finest. Budget airlines and flag carriers alike swear by the A320 and getting on for 6,000 have been made to date.

Despite bizarre logistics with more than a whiff of EU horsetrading - wings made in North Wales are shipped all the way to Toulouse for final assembly, where fuselage sections also arrive from Hamburg and rudders from Puerto Real in Spain - Airbus is a timely reminder that Europolitics can occasionally produce good results.

Recent history

The firm remains locked in air-to-air combat with Boeing, one of the great commercial rivalries of the 21st century. (Since 2000, Airbus has also been in the arms business, but passenger jets provide 70% of its EUR65bn annual revenues.) With an order book of 6,800 aircraft to Boeing's 5,700, Airbus can even claim to be ahead on some metrics. But despite being a technical tour de force, the 500-seat A380 superjumbo has been a sales flop, with production to be halved from 2018. Meanwhile the UK's decision to leave the EU means that future investment here - and potentially thousands of jobs - will be subject to review.

Who's in charge?

German son-of-a-shepherd Tom Enders is Airbus Group's boss.

Action man Enders is also is a keen skydiver, a Major in the German Army Reserve and holds a helicopter pilot's licence. Despite all these extracurricular interests, he's held down the top job since 2012.

Don't mention

The C-word. The SFO is investigating Airbus over potential corruption relating to the use of middlemen to secure deals in emerging markets - exactly the kind of thing that anti-bribery laws take an increasingly dim view of.

So any brown envelopes must be returned unopened.

Vital statistics

Sales: EUR64.45bn
Net profit: EUR2.7bn
Employees: 136,500


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