A fair label for EADS chief executive Tom Enders has to be change maker. Since moving up a slot on Louis Gallois's retirement a year ago, the former head of Airbus has put three big shocks into the European aerospace group.
First, in Autumn 2012, he made a bold bid to merge the company with one-time key shareholder BAE Systems, a move that would have created the undisputed world's largest aerospace company and, leveraging BAE's strength in the defence business, particularly in the USA, may have given EADS's own Cassidian defence unit the mass it needs to compete globally.
Thwarted by German government worries that an EADS-BAE combine would be structurally tilted towards French and UK industrial interests, Enders counterattacked - successfully - to overhaul EADS's clumsy shareholding structure. As of the April 2013 annual general meeting, gone are the days of overwhelming shareholdings, directly or by proxy, for Paris and Berlin. Gone, too, are the days of politicians holding the final say over major management decisions.
Enders followed that momentum by ending a dual-headquarters structure designed on EADS's formation 13 years ago to maintain at least the illusion of Franco-German balance in a company created by merging their national aerospace champions. Enders's desk, in as much as he spends much time sitting behind it, is firmly bolted to the floor in Toulouse.
But now, barely three months later, Enders has struck again - turning a coup literally at the top of the company.
EADS is itself going. Imminently, the company will be known simply as Airbus.
Details will be laid out in the fourth quarter, but the broad thrust is to shift from four divisions to three. The Airbus division will be responsible for all civil aircraft activities. Spacecraft and satellite services division Astrium will be combined with Cassidian to create a division called Airbus Defence & Space. Airbus Military, which used to sit under Airbus civil, will join Astrium and Cassidian.
Most challenging, from a branding perspective, is the apparent end of Eurocopter. The world's undisputed civil market share leader - Eurocopter accounts for a heavy half of global civil rotorcraft sales - will be known as Airbus Helicopters, also taking in Eurocopter military activities.
Enders is thought to have long favoured the change of corporate name, but in any case it must be assumed that he wanted it to happen. As he said in a statement outlining the shift: "What we are unveiling today is an evolution, not a revolution. It's the next logical step in the development of our company. We affirm the predominance of commercial aeronautics in our group and we restructure and focus our defence and space activities to take costs out, increase profitability and improve our market position.
"The renaming simply gathers the entire company under the best brand we have, one that stands for internationalisation, innovation and integration - and also for some two-thirds of our revenues. It reinforces the message that 'we make things fly'."
Whether there is much in a name remains to be seen. Notably, though, EADS's - or Airbus's - principal competitor is Boeing. The Seattle-based world number one by revenue has divisions for commercial aircraft, military aircraft and spacecraft, but in any shorthand, Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Defence, Space & Security go happily by Boeing. If Enders wants to ensure that no-one is unclear that EADS competes head to head with Boeing in every sector and every geographic market, bringing the whole thing under a single, successful and admired brand name makes sense.
Indeed, in the US market the shift may prove fruitful. When what is now EADS North America becomes Airbus North America, life will get at least a bit easier for the marketing team. They have a challenging job, too. Since 2008, when EADS shocked the USA by beating (in partnership with Northrop Grumman) Boeing to the US Air Force's $45 billion KC-X aerial refuelling tanker contract with an A330-based aircraft, the company has been at the eye of a political storm. Not surprisingly, Boeing-friendly politicians circled their wagons and found fault in the USAF's selection process. One version of order was restored when Boeing won the second time around, after Northrop Grumman had left EADS to re-bid alone.
EADS's response was gutsy. The KC-X plan had been to create an assembly line in Mobile, Alabama - very far from any Boeing heartland and very eager to have the jobs and the start of its own aerospace industry - and EADS has gone ahead with that part of its plan. Mobile will start building A320s from the second half of 2015. It will not make tankers but it will help supply US airlines with the Airbus airliners they have on order.
Expect the marketing people to make sure every American, including those with influence inside the so-called Beltway, knows that those aircraft are being assembled by US workers in a domestic factory with a much larger US component count than most in the country would assume. That job is going to be cleaner and easier if it is not necessary to explain the difference between EADS and Airbus.
Astrium is a good brand name, but its customers are governments, scientific institutions and big companies such as telecoms providers. Those people will not be much challenged by the shift from Astrium to "Airbus Space" or the like. It will not even matter much if those customers never get around to using a new name; they all know who they are talking to.
More challenging is the Eurocopter question. Whether or not that name would be created today, it is an extremely strong brand. Given its success in selling helicopters to US government agencies and police departments, there certainly do not appear to be any negative connotations in the "Euro" part. Changing a name, though, risks confusion that "Airbus Helicopters" will likely spend years - and lots of money and marketing attention - trying to overcome. Airbus may - as Enders puts it - imply "things that fly" - but it doesn't imply "helicopters" any more than it implies fighter jets.
On top of that, all of Eurocopter's type designations start with "EC", as in the EC225, EC135, or EC145. Are those going to become Airbus EC225s, for example? Or will they become Airbus AH225s and such? Details will come later this year, but for now the phrase that comes to mind is, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
One brand that no-one will be sorry to see the back of is Cassidian. Until September 2010 when EADS and its divisions were given new logos, it was simply EADS Defence & Security. Cassidian felt then, and still feels, like the last gasp of a 1990s corporate fashion for rebranding around made-up, and often perplexing, monikers. The UK's Royal Mail, for example, decided its mission would be better expressed as "Consignia" - a name that was rapidly slaughtered on the sacrificial altar of bad ideas. Anything is better than Cassidian, and Airbus Defence & Space will do just fine.
But step down from the heady world of marketing and advertising and reality on the ground remains prickly. Like Eurocopter, Astrium is a star. Whatever it is called, though, the EADS/Airbus defence business is an underperformer. Fundamentally, it is a German-centric business and Germany buys relatively little in the way of military hardware. France, a big buyer, already has Dassault Aviation to make its Rafale fighters, and industry heavyweights including Safran and Thales to make much of its equipment. BAE Systems is the UK's home supplier, and even does good business in North America. Even Italy has its own home player in Finmeccanica.
All of those rivals - along with the US heavy hitters - are, of course, scrambling hard for sales in overseas markets. Cassidian, even considering its 46% share in Eurofighter, struggles to compete. Whatever it may offer in technology, it does not share its rivals' advantage in having a solid home market that supports product development.
The financial results do not suggest that Cassidian's survival is threatened. But the unit is doing little better than surviving, while its siblings, Airbus, Astrium and Eurocopter are thriving. Changing its name will not change the picture.
Thus, it is no secret - and certainly no surprise - that Enders remains interested in a tie-up with BAE. A full merger as proposed last year may not pass muster with BAE shareholders any more now than it did then, but other forms of co-operation could be devised. BAE shareholders may even be more enthusiastic about a link if their company is also connected to one of the world's top space hardware and services companies.
For now, what is still formally EADS is having a good run. In the first half to the end of June, revenue was up 6% to €26.3 billion ($34.9 billion) and operating profit (EBIT) surged by 40% to €1.48 billion. That EBIT margin of 5.6% is up strongly from the 4.2% achieved in the same period a year ago, pointing to a solid, continuing improvement in profitability over the past several years, a push that began under Gallois.
Within that total, Astrium sales gained 6% to €2.81 billion, overtaking Eurocopter, which slipped 7% to €2.54 billion as deliveries fell by 8 units to 190 and grounding of the EC225 fleet took its toll. Cassidian gained 5% to €2.29 billion as a restructuring announced late in 2012 began to bear fruit. The defence unit's order book fell by €500 million euros from year-end 2012, to €15.1 billion.
But as ever, the star of the show is Airbus Commercial. Sales rose 8% to €18.9 billion, EBIT nearly doubled to €1.09 billion and the order book gained 14% to nearly €576 billion.
Notably, Airbus commercial revenue accounted for more than 69% of the group total. A year ago, that figure was less than 68%. EADS's longstanding "Vision 2020" drive to develop into a balanced business in which Airbus commercial revenue accounted for only about half the total is clearly off the rails and probably abandoned; Enders, after all, has just "affirm[ed] the predominance of commercial aeronautics".
The Vision 2020 idea was that non-airliner parts of EADS would be nurtured so that they would grow to match the Airbus commercial contribution. Astrium and Eurocopter have for several years been going in the right direction, but even if the defence business were stronger it is doubtful that the situation would be much different. In theory, a better balanced portfolio is more attractive, but Vision 2020 architect Gallois was always sanguine about Airbus's dominance. Who could argue with his oft-repeated remark that it is no bad thing to have such a successful business?
As Enders said earlier this year when presenting EADS's 2012 full-year figures, in the current climate of budget cutting on both sides of the Atlantic, it may be no bad thing to have a relatively small exposure to defence aerospace. By that reasoning, it's no bad thing to have a heavy exposure to a booming sector like civil airliners.
Airbus, after all, is a winner.