Airbus is coming under pressure from A400M risk-sharing suppliers to renegotiate their contract terms as it closes in on securing a revised production contract with the troubled airlifter's customer nations.

The repeatedly delayed programme has been saved from collapse after Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK agreed to recommit to their combined orders for 180 A400Ms under financial terms acceptable to Airbus, whose parent EADS has already been forced to make billions of euros-worth of write-offs.

The manufacturer's A400M risk-sharing partners are in turn looking to recoup some of their losses. Many have sunk substantial sums into developing equipment without seeing any return, as deliveries have slipped more than three years behind the original schedule.

"We are an Airbus supplier, and we have said that we are not happy with the contract how it is today," says Pierre-Eric Pommellet, senior vice-president at Thales Aerospace, the A400M's avionics provider.


"We hope that the negotiations with the states will also provide the opportunity to revisit supplier contracts," he says. "As of today we have not received any cash. It is clear that the A400M opened our eyes to what we should not do. It is not a situation that we like."

Airbus has indicated its willingness in principle to review supplier contracts, but warns this will be done on a case-by-case basis.

"It would probably depend on the nature of the final [umbrella contract] agreement, so it's difficult for me to judge at this point in time," says Tom Williams, Airbus executive vice-president programmes.

"People haven't enjoyed the [cash] flow they would have hoped for," he admits. "I think the simple answer is we hope to get a good conclusion to the [umbrella] negotiation, and then we would probably have to sit down.

"It doesn't affect all the suppliers in the same way, so we would then have to have individual discussions with each supplier.

"I wouldn't like you to report that it will just be a straightforward cascade - that wouldn't necessarily be the case. But clearly there will be suppliers that knock on the door," says Williams.

Airbus remains confident that the long-awaited first flight of the A400M will be achieved by the end of the year, he adds.

Source: Flight International