* Airbus CEO says to focus on in-production jets after A350
* Says A380 very close to breakeven in 2015
* Says more chance of A320 output hike than cut
* EADS strategy chief says won't chase growth at any cost
* Shares build on Wednesday's gains, up 0.5 pct
By Tim Hepher
PARIS, Dec 12 European aerospace group EADS
pledged to shun risky investments and new aircraft
programmes for at least a decade as it promised investors a
smoother ride under its Airbus brand in the wake of earlier
The head of its Airbus planemaking division, Fabrice
Bregier, said it had stabilised production problems on the
Airbus A380 superjumbo and the A400M military airlifter which
had caused the company significant headaches in recent years.
He also told investors that flight testing and development
of its latest aircraft, the A350, were progressing well ahead of
the first delivery planned in the fourth quarter of 2014.
"We are on track. You know the risks, but the risks are
reducing," Bregier told an investor forum in London, monitored
After it delivers its first all-new passenger jet in a
decade, Airbus will focus on enhancements to existing models.
It has already announced that from January, EADS will be
called Airbus Group and the name will become official following
its next shareholder meeting in May.
It reflects efforts to refocus the company on booming civil
aerospace markets, but after a series of product developments it
is addressing this through derivatives rather than new jets.
"Nobody sees brand-new developments in the next 10 years or
even more," Bregier said.
"The focus is on the improvement of our (in-production)
series programmes and there is still a lot to be extracted from
them. The good news for you is that it is much less risky to
improve existing platforms than develop brand-new aircraft".
He did not say what impact this would have on research
spending, but said the company would pursue new technology.
Airbus has scored successes with a revamped version of its
best-selling passenger plane, the A320neo, due to enter service
in 2015, and has announced modifications to its A330 aircraft.
Bregier said there was a greater possibility that Airbus
would increase, rather than reduce, production of A320-family
jets as it completes the transition to the more efficient model.
Boeing, which hit back with a significant order from
Air Canada overnight, last month announced plans to
increase production of its competing 737 MAX.
The models compete in the largest segment of the $100
billion annual aircraft market.
Shares in EADS extended strong gains seen on Wednesday when
it announced that loss-making early deliveries of the A350
would not eat into 2015 profit targets as badly as expected,
following efforts to drive risk out of the $15 billion project.
At mid-session they were up 0.5 percent at 53.12 euros, not
far from a record 54.5 euros set last month.
Airbus is anxious not to repeat past mistakes in developing
the A380 and A400M, both of which plunged the sector into
political turmoil and severely damaged its share price.
Airbus later had to slow A380 production to fix wing
problems but says it is back to normal, with 30 deliveries
expected in 2014. Bregier said the aircraft would be "very
close" to reaching a breakeven target in 2015.
EADS Chief Executive Tom Enders however said on Wednesday
costs still need to be reduced on the A400M project, which will
become part of a newly merged defence and space unit in 2014.
Analysts said risks surrounding EADS had eased after it
detailed the impact of loss-making initial A350 deliveries,
though Bregier stressed the A350 was not risk-free.
EADS strategy chief Marwan Lahoud, one of the architects of
the company formed by a Franco-German-Spanish merger in 2000,
said it would not chase growth at any cost and would avoid
investing in areas where growth looked shaky or inaccessible.
The company, which is selling its Test and Services
monitoring business, will carry out "active portfolio
management" in coming months, he said, apparently referring to
further moves to thin out non-civil assets.
Confirming a two-speed strategy as reported by Reuters on
Wednesday, Lahoud said EADS targeted growth in commercial
aviation while consolidating its position in defence and space.
"We will not allocate resources to areas where growth is
difficult to access," Lahoud added.