Airbus enters new era with change of CEO

Guillaume Faury is Airbus’ new CEO. (Airbus photo)

PARIS: European aerospace giant Airbus on Wednesday welcomes new CEO Guillaume Faury, whose inbox includes Brexit, US President Donald Trump’s trade threats and corruption investigations.

The 51-year-old Frenchman takes over from Tom Enders, who is stepping down after five years leading the France-based group whose 129,000 employees manufacture airliners, helicopters and satellites.

Enders oversaw an expansion of the group, but his rein was clouded by a recent decision to scrap the loss-making A380 super-jumbo range of Airbus planes as well as multiple probes into suspect payments.

The German’s retirement package – worth €37 million (US$41 million) including pension and stocks – has sparked controversy in France and a pledge from the government that it will legislate to limit huge corporate payoffs.

Faury will inherit a financially sound, highly profitable business with an order book of 7,350 passenger planes, which would be enough to keep factories running for a decade at current production rates.

But he will also have to handle the fall-out from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, which threatens to disrupt the company’s long and complicated supply chains which straddle Europe.

“Brexit could well mean a complete rethink of long-term manufacturing strategy for Airbus and brave decisions may need to be made unless a satisfactory outcome can be agreed by UK and Brussels,” independent aviation analyst Howard Wheeldon told AFP.

Earlier this week, Trump lashed out again at the EU, vowing to impose fresh tariffs over subsidies to Airbus, which threatens to reignite a more-than-decade-long transatlantic skirmish.

Investigations in France, Britain and reportedly in the United States into possible bribes paid to win contracts between 2008 and 2013 could cause more embarrassment – and lead to costly fines or prosecutions.

Faury, a married father of three, has spent most of his career in the aerospace industry, specialising in helicopters.

He started his career in the French defence ministry before joining Airbus’ helicopter division in 1998.

In 2009, he left for a four-year stint in research and development at French car group Peugeot before rejoining Airbus.

In February 2018, he became head of the civil aviation division, the company’s biggest and most high-profile, which is considered the launching pad for the groups’ top job.