Airbus maker EADS closes merger saga as profit leaps

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SummaryShares in Europe's largest aerospace company reached a record high.

(share) buyback adds about 15 percent to earnings in a full year. It is an earnings-driven equities market right now."

However, he warned an extended civil aerospace cycle was finally running out of steam and other risks had not gone away.

Airbus has also bounced back from the discovery a year ago of wing cracks inside the A380 superjumbo, with the spotlight falling instead on Boeing Co, which is wrestling with battery problems on its grounded 787 Dreamliner.

EADS said it had largely absorbed the costs of fixing the A380, the world's largest airliner. Any further potential one-off costs should be limited mainly to its next big project, the A350, which it continued to describe as "challenging".

But a slowdown in A380 deliveries as Airbus switches to a permanent fix for cracked wing "rib feet" - which had shortened the anticipated life of parts but did not lead to grounding - means EADS is predicting only "moderate" 2013 sales growth.

EADS reaffirmed plans to fly the A350, Europe's response to the 787, this summer. The first airframe, minus its engines, left the assembly line in France on Tuesday for outdoor tests.

Airbus is looking at a second A350 assembly line matching Boeing's double 787 production system but has yet to make a decision, Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm said.

Airbus' top salesman aired the plan last week, confirming a Reuters report in October that Airbus may hike output as a new battle looms over lucrative "mini-jumbo" sales.

The location of any new line has not been decided but is likely to test Enders' ambitions to run EADS as a "normal" company free of interference. France and Germany lobbied to host the first facility, recently opened in Toulouse.

EADS remains locked in a two-year-old dispute with Berlin about a 1.2 billion-euro development loan for the A350, half of which is unpaid as the two sides quarrel over the conditions.

OWNERSHIP SHAKE-UP

Investors have so far responded positively to a sweeping reorganisation of the company's complex public and private shareholdings, triggered by the collapse of the BAE deal.

France and Germany continue to own stakes, but a higher proportion of shares will be held by ordinary investors and the management says that it will be given a virtually free hand.

EADS has already won the first round by imposing its choice of chairman over a candidate preferred by the French government.

After flying to Paris to meet French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault late on Wednesday, Enders

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