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FRANKFURT, April 20 (Reuters) - Airbus parent EADS has signaled that shareholders can expect higher dividends in coming years as Europe's largest aerospace group moves out of a phase of high investments and leaves behind some problems of the past.
"Formerly, EADS was more cautious in its payout policy and at the time that was appropriate due to uncertainties, for instance those concerning the A380 programme," Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm told German daily Boersen-Zeitung.
"The risk profile of the group has improved in the meantime. Therefore, we can move more into the direction of an investor-friendly dividend policy," he told the paper.
Several Airbus plane types - including its superjumbo A380 - have been affected by a number of technical problems, causing delays in delivery and costing EADS heavily.
Wilhelm said he expects EADS's free cash flow - the pot from which dividends are paid - to turn positive after 2015, when high investments for product lines like the A380, A350 or A400M will be phased out.
Additionally, EADS's ongoing 3.75-billion-euro ($4.9 bln) share buy back programme is reducing the number of outstanding shares, making higher payouts per share possible with the same amount of money.
Earlier this week, EADS purchased 600 million euros of its own stock as part of a placement by car maker Daimler . The move followed on the heels of fellow founding shareholder Lagardere's exit from EADS, paving the way for the aerospace group to have a larger free-market float.
For 2012, EADS is paying a dividend of 60 cents a share, or 40 percent of its profit. Wilhelm said that ratio was not set in stone. "The pay-out ratio of 40 percent is not yet a dividend policy."
Separately, Wilhelm said that EADS is currently strengthening its investor relations activities in Asia and the Middle East to acquire new shareholders.
"I have nothing against sovereign wealth funds (as investors) as long as they are normal investors," he told the paper.