The Corona crash of 2020 is still in the bones of Airbus, but the signs are still pointing to recovery.

On Thursday, the European aviation group presented a record net profit of 4.2 billion euros for the past financial year.

Adjusted for special effects, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) amounted to 4.9 billion euros, which means that the target of 4.5 billion euros announced in the autumn was exceeded.

Airbus was in noticeably better shape than in the previous year, not only in its main business with civil aircraft, but also in the helicopter and armaments and space sectors.

Niklas Zaboji

Economic correspondent in Paris

  • Follow I follow

"The pandemic is not quite behind us yet," said Airbus boss Guillaume Faury on Thursday.

But in 2021 it was possible to move from crisis management to recovery and growth.

"It has become clear that people want to fly again," said Faury.

There is a "fundamental need" of people and cultures around the world to connect.

As a goal for 2022, the Airbus boss named an EBIT adjusted for special effects of 5.5 billion euros, i.e. an increase of around 12 percent within a year.

720 civil aircraft are to be delivered in 2022.

That would even be an increase of 18 percent within a year.

But as early as 2021, the target of 600 deliveries was initially considered sporty and was ultimately exceeded by eleven aircraft.

The earnings forecast was raised twice over the course of the year.

That gives the management hope.

She wants to hire 6,000 employees this year after cutting 10,000 jobs after the outbreak of the pandemic.

If business goes well, there should be more new hires in the second half of the year.

Airbus does not believe that the sharp rise in energy and fuel prices will thwart the upswing.

"We are not afraid," said CFO Dominik Asam.

"The demand is real"

The shareholders should also get their money's worth again: after two zero rounds, EUR 1.50 per share certificate is planned this year.

However, the stock market was not in the mood for celebrations on Thursday, the Airbus share price started trading with a slight minus.

It is still almost a sixth below the pre-pandemic level.

Group sales are even further away from this, despite the recovery in the past year: around 52 billion euros were booked in 2021 after 50 billion euros in the previous year.

In the pre-Corona year 2019, Airbus still came to 70 billion euros.

At Airbus, the civil aircraft division accounts for roughly 70 percent, the armaments and space division for 20 percent and the helicopter division for 10 percent of sales.

CEO Faury confirmed on Thursday that full recovery from the pandemic should take until the middle of this decade.

Above all, the strong demand for civil short- and medium-haul aircraft makes him confident.

"The demand is real," Faury had recently emphasized.

Many airlines wanted to position themselves for the post-crisis recovery and also invested in new aircraft in view of the stricter emission regulations.

Because the aircraft of the A320 family are primarily in demand - they account for around 80 percent of the orders, the rest is divided between the A220, A350 and the A330 - Airbus is currently increasing its monthly production rate: at the beginning of the pandemic from 63 throttled to 40, it should be 65 in mid-2023 and 75 in mid-2025.

Boeing is at a disadvantage

In fact, the demand for Airbus machines had risen sharply in recent months, much more than arch-rival Boeing: while the Europeans had around 7,000 orders on their books at the end of January, the Americans, plagued by problems with the 737 and 787 Max, only came on 4300 orders.

Airbus had recently received notable major orders from the Australian airline Qantas and the American investor Indigo Partners, which has stakes in low-cost airlines such as Wizz Air.

In terms of deliveries, Boeing was at a disadvantage last year with 340 aircraft in view of the 611 Airbus deliveries.

The fact that the Europeans were able to get hold of a letter of intent at the Singapore Air Show this week for the purchase of seven A350 freighters by the Arab airline Etihad, which previously relied on Boeing, should only increase their self-confidence.

The dispute with Qatar Airways over crumbling paintwork on A350 civil aircraft does not want to spoil the mood.

Faury said on Thursday that attempts had been made for months to settle the conflict, which was now legally fought out, in talks - without success.