Airbus criticises Berlin’s export ban on fighter jets to Saudi Arabia

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The head of Airbus has hit out at the German government’s ban on exports of new Eurofighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia, warning that it is damaging the country’s export reputation.

Guillaume Faury, chief executive of the pan-European aerospace and defence group, said Berlin’s stance was not only “damaging for the Eurofighter but also damaging for the reputation of Germany as an export country to its partners”.

Berlin has come under pressure from its partners in the Eurofighter consortium, notably the UK, which is keen to secure a new order from Saudi, to ease its stance on exports to the kingdom.

Although a large proportion of Eurofighter components are manufactured by BAE Systems in the UK, some come from the other partner nations: Germany, Italy and Spain. 

Berlin, however, has refused to issue arms export licences to Saudi Arabia because of its involvement in the Yemen war and the killing of US-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

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German chancellor Olaf Scholz has pushed back against pressure to unblock delivery of the jets. His coalition partner, the Greens, have firmly opposed the move. 

Faury said that while he perceived a “positive trend into easing the situation” this was “not going at the pace we would need, at least the one we would consider is necessary at Airbus”. 

The company, he told reporters, was “calling for clear and visible decisions on that topic to be able to enable exports to Saudi Arabia for the Eurofighter which we believe is something that would make sense”.

Faury’s intervention came after the group posted higher revenues and earnings for the third quarter and reaffirmed its plans to deliver 720 commercial planes by the end of the year despite persistent supply chain snags. 

Airbus had delivered 559 aircraft by the end of October, leaving it with 161 planes to complete if it is to hit its target. The company’s deliveries usually accelerate in the last two months of the year. 

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The plane maker is also increasing production of its A350 widebody aircraft to 10 a month in 2026, up from a previous goal of nine a month by the end of 2025, as the recovery in international travel has gathered pace.

Faury said the company was still sticking to its plan to produce 75 of its A320 narrow-body aircraft in 2026 despite challenges with enginemaker Pratt & Whitney. 

Airbus also reaffirmed plans for a restructuring of its defence and space division, where it reported new charges of €300mn on “certain satellite development programmes”. 

Faury said the company’s defence activities remained critical to the group. The restructuring, he said, was focused on improving competitiveness and enhancing accountability.

The company’s adjusted operating earnings came in at €1.013bn in the quarter to the end of September, up 21 per cent, as revenues rose 12 per cent to €14.9bn.

Airbus stuck to its forecast to deliver adjusted earnings before interest and tax of €6bn, and free cash flow — before mergers and acquisitions and customer financing — of around €3bn for the full year to the end of December.

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