EADS chairmen Manfred Bischoff and Arnaud Lagardère have weighed into the debate surrounding the crisis unfolding at Airbus in a frank interview with French financial daily newspaper Les Echos.
Bischoff told hit out at rumours that the board of directors had disagreed with outgoing chief executive Christian Streiff over the Power 8 cost-cutting plan. The interview comes a day after Streiff gave an exclusive interview to rival French daily Le Figaro in which he lambasted the EADS management style and accused the company of wasteful duplication.
“On the contrary, the board meeting of 29 September gave its unanimous approval. But as the shareholders had asked that it be presented as a matter of urgency, the chief financial officer (Hans Peter Ring) did not have time to approve all its aspects," says Bischoff. "That is the reason why the approval was taken to another board meeting, the following Tuesday. But I repeat: the board of directors came out in favour of the plan, unanimously. It hasn’t been toned down. On the contrary, we have even had discussions to find out if the proposed measures will be enough or not,” he continues.
When asked why Streiff had not been given the level of autonomy at Airbus that he wanted, Bischoff replied: “He complained about the degree of integration of Airbus into EADS. However, the board of EADS had clearly indicated its wish to have more visibility at Airbus, after the problems with the A380 that emerged last summer. One of the main causes of the current problems was just that: the board’s lack of visibility at Airbus. We gave up a lot of autonomy to Noël Forgeard and the result was a slip of €5 billion [$6 billion] on the A380 programme. We therefore had no intention of going back to that model. Airbus is too important an entity within the EADS group to be managed like an independent company."
Lagardère adds that they had been advocating a different method of management for sometime. “We had been proposing it since last April with Thierry Breton: we decided on it together. So, we’ve done it. I notice that the reaction of the markets seems to indicate that we’ve made the right decision.”
The two chairmen insisted that the Power 8 plan would go ahead as planned.
Bischoff told the newspaper a decision on the launch of the A350XWB would be taken in the next few weeks. “I believe the programme is necessary in the light of the Boeing 787 and the expectations of Airbus customers, but we must first ensure we have all the technical and financial conditions necessary for its success in place,” adds Lagardère.