April 24, 2018 / 2:25 PM / a year ago

Airbus CEO says post-Brexit production shift open for discussion

BERLIN (Reuters) - Airbus (AIR.PA) will not move its existing activities out of Britain when the country leaves the European Union but could forgo basing new projects there, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders poses after Airbus annual press conference on the 2017 financial results in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

“I do not see that we kind of pick up and move somewhere else. But of course for future activities, future production, future development, that is open for discussion,” Tom Enders told reporters on the sidelines of the Berlin Aviation Summit.

Airbus employs 15,000 people in Britain where it makes all the wings for its commercial aircraft.

The planemaker has previously said it needs to decide whether to spend more on parts in order to build up an extra buffer of stock to cope with potential disruption when Britain leaves the European Union on March 29, 2019.

Asked about Airbus’s possible role in a new European fighter jet project, Enders said the group was in “good discussions” with other companies that may take part, especially with Dassault (AVMD.PA).

France and Germany are expected to announce initial details about the planned new warplane development program at the ILA Berlin Air Show, which starts on Wednesday, with France’s Dassault aiming to take the lead.

Enders said Airbus aimed to avoid the problems seen on the multinational A400M military transport program.

“We never want to come to a situation again where the program is heavily burdened by too many somewhat conflicting requirements or governments telling us which engines or suppliers to take,” he said.

“That means clear requirements, joint requirements from the customer side, not everybody having 12 different versions,” he added.

He also stuck with a target for Airbus to deliver 800 aircraft this year, saying he was encouraged by upbeat comments by U.S. manufacturer United Technologies Corp (UTC) (UTX.N).

UTC’s Pratt & Whitney unit halted deliveries of its Geared Turbofan engine for the Airbus A320neo for almost a month this year, but group finance chief Akhil Johri told Reuters on Tuesday that the group expected to meet its full-year target for engine deliveries to Airbus.

“It is no secret that this will be a challenge for the rest of the year, but the positive comments from UTC are certainly an additional encouragement to believe that we can make our guidance,” Enders said.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Writing by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Tom Sims and Susan Fenton

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