Airbus Group CEO keeping options open on new term

AMSTERDAM Tue May 27, 2014 1:33pm EDT

Tom Enders, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Group, attends the Airbus Group 2013 annual results presentation in Toulouse February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Tom Enders, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Group, attends the Airbus Group 2013 annual results presentation in Toulouse February 26, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Regis Duvignau

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders has ruled out taking another job in aerospace or going into politics when he eventually decides to step down from Europe's largest aerospace group - but is not yet ready to say when that will be.

Speaking to Reuters ahead of a shareholders' meeting, the 55-year-old chief executive said he would not begin to address whether to seek a second three-year term before next year.

"At the moment my contract is still running for two years, so we will discuss perhaps in a year from now," Enders said.

"In 2016, I will have been in the industry for 25 years. It’s quite hard to move to another job in the aerospace industry if you’ve been the CEO of Airbus Group," he said, adding: "No, I’m not thinking about politics."

Tuesday's meeting marks the half-way point in Enders' eventful four-year mandate as CEO, which saw a bid for BAE Systems to create the world's largest defense company blocked by German opposition, and an overhaul of company structure designed to curb French and German state influence.

"I still like what I’m doing; it’s a fantastic industry," Enders said. "Caffeine and kerosene really wake me up and make me happy...Maybe there’s still something for me to do. I’m not completely bored.

"I can’t offer you an adventure every second day though. It’s now execution, execution, execution, we have to deliver; it’s so important. We have lots of ideas but we have to make resources match with ambitions.

"We have a new shareholder structure with over 70 percent free float. They have high expectations; we don’t want to disappoint them."

Airbus and U.S. rival Boeing have both signaled a break from pioneering but risky new projects while returning more cash to shareholders, while Airbus is preparing to deliver its first new jet in a decade, the A350.

Analysts say Airbus Group is also looking for a period of stability after last year's shake-up, though potential successors to Enders such as Fabrice Bregier, the 52-year-old head of the Airbus planemaking unit, are waiting in the wings.

CASH FOCUS

Shareholders will formally adopt Airbus Group as the company's legal title, matching the trade name used since January when Enders ditched the name chosen when the group was created from a Franco-German-Spanish merger in 2000 - EADS.

Last year saw EADS shares almost double to record levels after the reorganization and a share buyback, but while the company met its earnings forecasts it missed its cashflow targets, resulting in efforts to tame that area's volatility.

Shareholders will be asked on Tuesday to give cashflow a greater weight in Enders' compensation, which includes a basic salary of 1.4 million euros plus performance-related bonuses.

There has been speculation in the past that Enders would seek a career in politics. The former defense ministry planner and paratroop reservist has clashed with Berlin over industrial or defense policy and resigned from the conservative CSU party in 2011 over Germany's opposition to intervention in Libya.

A further clash appeared to be looming on the eve of the shareholders' meeting after Enders warned Germany in a Reuters interview of extra job cuts and factory closures due to toughening of arms export controls.

While he is not yet ready to discuss whether he will seek re-appointment for a second three-year term until 2020, Enders effectively ruled out staying on for a third term, the maximum recommended for board mandates under governance rules.

Asked how the balance between commercial and defense activities would look in 2022, Enders said, "2022, that’s a question that my successor will deal with, that’s for sure."

(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Erica Billingham and; Tim Hepher)

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