Airbus parent EADS reports 355M profit in 4Q

MUNICH (AP) — European aerospace giant EADS NV said Wednesday that lower charges for delayed programs such as its A400M military transport plane helped it return to profit in the fourth quarter, but forecast flat earnings in 2011.

The parent company of Boeing rival Airbus reported it made 355 million ($493 million) in the last three months of 2010, compared to a loss of 1.1 billion in the same period a year earlier when spiraling costs on EADS’ new military transport, the A400M, and its A380 superjumbo jet took a heavy toll on earnings.

EADS forecast operating earnings to be flat at 1.3 billion this year before any one-off charges.

Airbus took in orders for 574 new aircraft last year worth $74 billion at list prices, besting its U.S. rival for the third year running. A strong upturn in the aviation market, especially in fast growing Asian countries, has spurred a raft of new jet orders from airlines scrambling to meet demand.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s largest airline Cathay Pacific Airways announced an order for 27 new jets including 17 from Airbus and 10 from Boeing.

And Tuesday ILFC, the world’s largest aircraft leasing firm, announced plans to buy 100 of Airbus’ new A320neo jets, in an attention-grabbing deal potentially worth over $9 billion at list prices.

Airbus says the A320neo has aerodynamically improved wingtip extensions and fuel-efficient engines which will deliver up to 15 percent in fuel savings. It foresees a potential market for about 4,000 A320neo aircraft.

EADS is a European holding company that also encompasses Eurocopter helicopters, Astrium satellites and Cassidian defense electronics businesses.

Airbus’ civil aviation arm accounts for almost two-thirds of EADS sales. Chief Executive Louis Gallois’ stated aim of increasing its share of sales from military aircraft received a major setback last month when the U.S. Air Force chose Boeing Co. to build its new fleet of aerial refueling tankers, a contract worth $35 billion.

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