On Monday, the European planemaker announced that Airbus finance chief Harald Wilhelm would leave in 2019, removing a leading opponent to replace CEO Tom Enders who is also set to depart next year. During the Airbus annual press conference, Harald Wilhelm, Airbus Chief Financial Officer talks about the 2017 financial results in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, February 15, 2018. Wilhelm said, “Until I leave, I will remain committed to delivering the best performance for the company, working with management to make sure there will be a smooth transition to the next Airbus CFO,” who joined the company, in 2000.
The successors to both Wilhelm and Enders will face challenges including the declining orders and the possible loss of an order of 100 plane from Iran which is now in jeopardy due to plans by the U.S. President Donald Trump due to reimposing sanctions on Tehran. The deal, however, worth approximately $18-20 billion, was finalized into an agreement in December of 2016. But three planes have only been delivered, with industry sources blaming the delays on the wariness of banks to finance business with Tehran. Iran told it is expecting to hear from Airbus about the fate of the deal in the upcoming days.
Airbus is also facing a product mix change, with the slowing of passenger jet A330 its sales are prompting it in a 17 percent drop in 2019 deliveries of its most successful wide-body jet, under the intense competition from U.S. rival Boeing’s 787 model. The shares of Airbus fell from 1.5 percent to 97.98 euros. The analysts of UBS said Wilhelm’s departure was a blow in the face, although they had a buy rate on the shares of Airbus. Two fund managers said the fall in Airbus’ shares reflected broader concerns over its business in Iran and a rise in the euros.
Jerome Schupp, Prime Partners’ fund manager, said “It would have been more worrying had Wilhelm stepped down immediately, but he’s leaving next year, so Airbus will have plenty of time to find a replacement,” who added saying he prefers the shares of Boeing to those of Airbus. Ion-Marc Valahu, Clairinvest fund manager, said Wilhelm’s departure when compared to the Airbus potential problems over its Iran contracts is less of an issue. Airbus said that”At the Annual Meeting, the submission of the candidate for chief executive will be done by shareholders in spring 2019 and Enders will be there to assist a secure and smooth transition.
According to the observers in the industry, The board of Airbus is very keen to assert control over the appointments process, after the changes made in its company rules in 2013 to reduce the French and German governments influence, each owning 11 percent of the company. During the initial 12 years after the 2000 pan-European merger, top jobs had been divided between France and Germany to protect national interests. Now, however, there are fewer restrictions.