NTSB briefing on 787 today

The National Transportation Board will have a briefing today at 2:30 ET. In advance of the briefing, NTSB issued this terse statement:

The following factual information has been developed about the battery: It consists of eight cells of 3.7 volts each. All eight cells had varying degrees of thermal damage. Six of eight cells have been CT scanned and have been disassembled to expose their electrodes. All electrode windings in the battery are in the process of being photo-documented and are undergoing microscopic examination. In the coming days, the remaining two cells will undergo the same examination. Additional information will be provided tomorrow.

Meanwhile, The Seattle Times has this story about the battery system.

The Wall Street Journal has this story about Boeing’s innovation for the 787.

Looking ahead to 2013 in Commercial Aviation

Last year yielded a few surprises in an otherwise predictable year.

Jim Albaugh shocked the aviation world when he retired unexpectedly at age 62. He was expected to remain in his position as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes until mandatory retirement at 65.

EADS CEO Tom Enders unleashed a surprise merger proposal with BAE Systems. The deal didn’t work due to German government opposition, but he ultimately accomplished a governance restructuring—a key objective of the merger—that will reduce government meddling in the future.

Those were about it. Boeing’s much-anticipated Authority to Offer the 777X didn’t happen. ATO for the 787-10 was stealthily granted. Airbus and Bombardier, to no surprise, delayed the A350 and CSeries by a few months. Boeing came roaring back to become sales leader for the first time in about a decade, on the strength of 737 MAX sales.

What’s ahead for 2013? Here’s what we see.


With the spurt of 737 MAX sales over, narrow-body sales competition between Airbus and Boeing should return to normalcy. Will twin-aisle sales become the next growth market because of the first flight of the A350 and the program launch of the 7870-10? Will ATO of the 777X evolve into a program launch as well? Will Bombardier’s first flight of the CSeries and subsequent testing validate its claims for the new technology airplane and finally spur a large number of sales of the “show me” crowd?

Here’s our OEM-by-OEM rundown.

Read more

Odds and Ends: Bombardier lands Delta’s RJ deal; 787 events in perspective; Airbus/China; Enders victory

Delta Air Lines: Bombardier, in a welcome development, landed a major order with Delta for 40+30 CRJ900s, beating out Embraer’s E-Jet proposal. Delta has a large, installed base of CRJs and EMB wasn’t too optimistic, in management-analysts meetings last week, according to research notes. But BBD liked its odds, considering the CRJ is more fuel efficient than the E-Jet (being a small airplane), even if the E-Jet is far more comfortable.

For BBD, the order is important for two reasons. First, the CRJ backlog is shrinking. Deliveries begin 2H2013, and this illustrates the point. Second, with BBD sucking up cash in advance of CSeries first flight in 1H2013, the deposits, progress payments and delivery payments are welcome, indeed.

The next face-off between the two OEMs is American Airlines, where both have large installed RJ fleets of aging aircraft.

Boeing 787 events: Airworthiness Directive. “Emergency” landing. AirInsight puts things into perspective.

Airbus lands China orders: Hmm. EU suspends plans to impose ETS tax. Airbus lands orders for 60 A320s and 10 A330s. What do you make of that…

Enders now 1-1, sort of: Tom Enders, CEO of EADS, lost his bid to acquire BAE Systems due to German government interference. The merger would have reduced government meddling, balanced EADS commercial and military business, put EADS on a more equal footing with Boeing and positioned EADS better for US DOD contract bids. But Enders has now won a corporate governance restructuring that ends government meddling in daily operations. He still hasn’t achieved his other goals, but this one is so huge that we rate Enders’ won-lost record 1-1.

EADS Investors Day–Analysts reports

EADS held an investors Day this week; here are takes from two who attended.

Airbus presentations may be found here.


EADS is holding its annual Global Investor Forum. We describe key themes from Day 1, which focused on EADS overall and Airbus. A key message we took away was that EADS is headed toward governance changes that should make it a more normal company.

We now expect reduced government involvement with independent directors becoming the majority on the board. The free float is planned to rise from 49% to 70%. Although the sale of shares may depress the stock in the near term, long term it is positive.

Margin upside remains the key value driver for EADS, with higher margins likely on A320 and A330 from cost reduction and pricing. A380 performance appears to be improving. We see the main risk as the A350 production ramp in H2 2013.

First flyable Airbus 350 rolls out of the factory. Airbus photo.

First flyable Airbus 350 rolls out of the factory. Airbus photo.

Wells Fargo

Summary. We attended the EADS Global Investor Forum in the UK. Given that Airbus is the primary competitor to Boeing in manufacturing large commercial aircraft, its outlook is important to the suppliers in our coverage universe. Overall, we believe the key highlights of the forum on day 1 were 1) demand for airplanes remains strong as Airbus now says 2014 is overbooked for A320 2) the A350 and A320neo developments remain on track 3) Airbus has about 300 A320 current engine option airplane slots to sell in 2016-2017 that could see some pricing pressure and 4) Airbus is intently focused on reducing its costs which could lead to some pricing pressure for suppliers. In particular, Airbus highlighted Spirit Aerosystems as a supplier that has been challenged on the A350. For the suppliers in our coverage universe, we believe the positive commentary on a stronger 2014 and the order backlog should give investors increased confidence in Boeing and Airbus production ramp ups despite recent economic weakness. In addition, while Airbus has focused on reducing costs, we believe pricing pressure has been continuous for the suppliers in our coverage universe and do not expect substantial changes in the profitability of work for Airbus. We continue to be positive on the commercial aerospace suppliers based on the OEM upturn.
A350XWB. Airbus confirmed its schedule on the aircraft with first flight in mid-2013 and entry into service in H2 2014. We do not know how many aircraft Airbus plans to deliver in 2014, but the company did say that one of its two launch customers, Singapore Airlines, has shifted its planned aircraft deliveries into 2015 leaving only Cathay Pacific to receive the aircraft in 2014.

A320neo. Airbus continues to highlight its re-engined narrow body A320neo as superior to Boeing’s 737MAX. The company believes that its larger fan size allows total cash operating costs to be 3.3% better than the 737MAX. Boeing of course calculates different economics and can show its offering is superior to the A320neo. Airbus said it has about 300 open delivery slots for the current generation A320 aircraft before production transitions to the A320neo in 2017. Not surprisingly, most of these appear to be at the end of A320ceo production in 2016-2017. The company said that its 2013 and 2014 delivery slots are now fully booked (and 2015 is nearly so), an improvement from the company’s Q3 earnings conference call when there were still 2014 delivery slots available.

Backlog Growth in 2013. Airbus has about 7.5 years worth of production at planned rates (similar to Boeing’s production in backlog). Management thinks this long backlog has reduced the cyclicality of the airplane manufacturing business since 2004. On the other hand, Boeing has said it desires to reduce its backlog such that it can deliver airplanes on a more timely basis to customers.

Focus On Cost Reduction Could Mean Pricing Pressures For Suppliers. Airbus is targeting a 10% EBIT margin by 2015 (excluding A350 losses and the impact of a weaker Euro) and is aggressively looking to take out costs. As part of its cost reduction efforts, Airbus will have reorganized its plant management process beginning in January 2013. The new structure empowers plant managers with increased authority to manage production problems. At the same time, Airbus has implemented a single procurement organization to more effectively and efficiently manage the costs of the supply chain.

Odds and Ends: Cargolux, Qatar to split; P-8A and MAX; More on Sequestration; Dodging that depth charge

Cargolux, Qatar Airways to split: Several news stories report that Qatar Airways is going to dump its 35% stake in Cargolux. The stories indicate a disagreement in the direction of Cargolux. This story is the most detailed, although it’s now a month old  and out-of-date.

The day before the news broke last week, we were told that Qatar wanted to set up a Cargolux hub in Doha and decline more deliveries of Boeing 747-8Fs to Cargolux in favor of using Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777Fs. This tracks similarly with the month-old story linked above. Cargolux has eight 748Fs on order.

There is a general softness in global air cargo traffic that is causing some cargo airlines to consider deferring 748Fs as well, complicating Cargolux’s viability.

We were also told there are sharp personality differences between the Qatar and Cargolux board members that aggravated relations between the two companies.

P-8A and MAX: Bloomberg has this story that looks at an angle about the Boeing 737 MAX that hasn’t been discussed before: Boeing will stick with the NG-based P-8A Poseidon and not shift to the MAX.

Sequestration: We had a recent think piece on how sequestration might not be a bad thing in the long run because it would force the Pentagon to truly re-think its global defense strategy. This piece in Defense News, an authoritative trade publication, picks up a similar theme.

Dodging that depth charge: EADS wanted to merge with BAE Systems. BAE is the prime contractor of the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet. Read this story about the HMS Astute. EADS may well have dodged that bullet–er, depth charge.

Odds and Ends: Good week for Boeing; 777X-no news yet; SPEEA; Bombardier earnings call

Good Week for Boeing: Last week was a good one for Boeing: after a short delay, United Airlines received its second 787 and the type entered domestic service with the carrier Sunday (technically, of course, that’s “this” week). An order for the 737 MAX with lessor ALAFCO of Kuwait was firmed up; this was announced at the Farnborough Air Show; and a new order with Russian lessor Aviation Capital Services for the MAX was also announced.

777X Customer Meeting: Boeing hosted a customer meeting Oct. 31-Nov. 1 for discussion of the 777X and the outcome is, basically, no news. We talked with some attendees. Boeing showed customers concepts that have been widely written about: an -8X that is about 350 passengers, a -9X that is about 407 passengers, around 8,500nm range (with Emirates wanting more range but the majority of customers opposed as unneeded for their operations); an LX (similar to the current LR model); composite wings and wing box, new engines, undecided on sole source or dual source engines, a metal fuselage and some new systems.

No conclusions were reached and there’s no near-term launch of the aircraft planned.

SPEEA and Boeing: After things seemed to improve between the engineers union SPEEA and Boeing following the former’s 96% rejection of a contract offer by the latter, negotiations seems to be heading south again. SPEEA is Tweeting regularly about poor progress, members are doing informational picketing and voluntary overtime is being rejected. The contract expires this week and SPEEA members could be asked to authorize a strike.

Bombardier Earnings Call: The third quarter earnings call is Wednesday. We expect BBD to announce what it has been telegraphing most of the year: a three-six month delay in first flight of the new CSeries, which it had been trying to achieve by year-end. We think it will be at the long-end of this window, with an equal delay for EIS, currently slated for December 2013.

Louis Gallois offers advice: Louis Gallois, the recently retired CEO of EADS, offered some advice to the French President on economic revival of the economy.

Overdue AirAsia order: Remember the order for 100 Airbus A320s expected from AirAsia by the Farnborough Air Show? Looks like it is finally to be announced.

EADS-BAE merger off; government interference, key shareholder kill it

The EADS-BAE Systems merger is off, killed by a combination of government interference and a key BAE shareholder who opposed it. Read here and here and here.

We favored the merger as a way to get the French and Germans out of EADS’ knickers. The British government also meddled in the affair, for its concern about the diminished role of BAE post-merger. BAE is a top UK employer and defense contractor.

Flight Global published a list of the Top 100 aerospace companies in the world. Boeing is #1, EADS #2 and BAE #15. A PDF is here Top 100 Aerospace Companies, avoiding Flight’s annoying new Flight Global Club nonsense.

Military contracts exempt from government subsidies

A new round of news articles has emerged concerning launch aid to Airbus for the A350. This one is typical. It and others tied the subsidies identified in the long-running WTO case received by Airbus to the proposed merger between Airbus parent EADS and Britain’s BAE Systems.

BAE gets about half its revenue from the US Department of Defense. According to Bloomberg rankings, BAE was DOD’s No. 9 supplier last year (down from #5 in 2009 when the US was still engaged in the Iraq War).

Some say the Airbus WTO issue may cause a problem for the merger with US authorities while others say it shouldn’t. The news that Airbus received $4.5bn in launch aid will add fuel to the fire.

(We wrote a couple of years ago that Airbus had received launch aid–it was revealed in the EADS financial statements. We’re a bit perplexed why the big hubbub now.)

Airbus and the European Union say launch aid per se wasn’t deemed illegal by the WTO and only the terms and conditions providing below market interest rates and other T&C were. Any subsequent launch aid would comply with the WTO ruling.

Boeing and the US Trade Representative say launch aid itself is illegal.

But while some try to connect launch aid to military contracts (see the USAF tanker) and even to this merger, the fact remains that military contracts are completely exempt from WTO rules over subsidies.

Odds and Ends: A350 launch aid; strike at Bombardier biz jets; Embraer demand off; EADS-BAE

A350 Launch Aid: The US Trade Rep says it has the documents outlining $4.5bn in launch aid for the Airbus A350, according to a Reuters story. Predictably, Boeing and the USTR have gone in to overdrive. The A350 was excluded by the WTO from the long-running trade dispute because it wasn’t included in the original complaint filed in 2004–which is kind of obvious since the program didn’t surface until 2006. But Airbus contends that launch aid wasn’t ruled illegal in the WTO findings, just how it was implemented. Airbus contends that any launch aid for the A350 is structured in compliance with the WTO rulings of the 2004 case. The US contends launch aid itself is illegal. Whether it is or it isn’t, we don’t like launch aid or any other form of corporate welfare (see Boeing 787) and we don’t think a solvent company like Airbus (or Boeing) should be getting any.

Bombardier strike at Lear Jet unit: Machinists voted to strike at Bombardier’s Lear Jet unit. BBD hardly needs this. With cash flow demands peaking as the CSeries development enters the final stretch, and with demand for regional airliners off, this is an unneeded headache.

Embraer Demand: Wall Street analysts were pretty unhappy following the Embraer investors day last week. EMB gave no signs of willingness to cut production next year. There are 100 slots and only about 75 orders, with few in sight. Backlog is shrinking. EMB is hoping to land big orders from either Delta Air Lines or American Airlines for the E-Jet, but we’re not aware of any Delta campaign (and in any event, the airline favored the CSeries in the aborted campaign of a year ago). American is in such disarray there is no telling when, or if, it will pursue an order.

EADS-BAE: Bernstein Research doesn’t think this merger should happen. The excerpt from a note issued today:

We believe that it would be best for both companies if this proposed merger does not happen. But, we see the merger as worse for EADS than for BAE. Both companies describe scale as an advantage (e.g. better leverage of R&D), but we have never seen scale in itself as an advantage. Specific issues are:

– Shareholder interests. EADS shareholders typically own the stock as a play on commercial aircraft OE growth through Airbus. Increasing the scale of defense assets, with some in particularly challenging markets, is likely to take some investors out of the stock. We find BAE Systems shareholders as generally focusing on the high dividend. The combination with EADS, which does not pay a high dividend, places the current BAE Systems dividend level at risk in 2014. The disclosure of merger discussions also raises questions about the sustainability of cash flow and the divided, as we have found investors questioning why BAE would accept the EADS offer if its cash outlook were robust. BAE Systems CEO Ian King has countered this by stating (with EADS CEO Tom Enders) that this deal is “borne out of opportunity, not necessity”.

– Synergy potential. We view the potential synergies between EADS and BAE Systems as low given very little overlap between their businesses and restrictions in technology transfer from US programs. From an EADS standpoint, we expect that this combination would result in a stronger international marketing organization, provide some limited cost savings in indirect personnel and sourcing, and provide some improvement for the defense electronics portion of EADS’ Cassidian business (only about 2 billion euros in revenue). But, given the limitations in capturing these synergies and their relatively small size, we do not see them as justifying a merger of this scale. For EADS, this is particularly true, since it would pay a premium for BAE shares and be buying into some particularly difficult market exposure (e.g. US Army equipment, defense IT/services). In addition, we see disruption as inevitable in a deal of this size, as it could lead to a loss of some key personnel, changes in government relationships, and problematic integration steps (e.g. IT Systems), even though the overlap is relatively small.