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Airbus chief: A380 and A350 assembly could be concentrated in Toulouse

Airbus chief: A380 and A350 assembly could be concentrated in Toulouse

Airbus is considering a transfer of assembly work on the troubled A380 superjumbo to France from Germany, and assembly of a planned A350 mid-sized jet could also be based at the company's Toulouse headquarters, Chief Executive Christian Streiff said in an interview published Thursday.
Streiff's comments, in an interview with French daily Le Monde, could raise concern among German staff unions already fearful that the crisis over the A380's two-year production delay could lead to cuts in Germany, as work on the plane is concentrated on one site to save transportation costs and time.
Asked whether he planned to transfer A380 work to Toulouse from Hamburg, where Airbus currently has an A380 paintshop, cabin-fitting plant and delivery center, Streiff said: "Everything's possible but nothing's decided. I'm looking at all ideas."
Production changes will be discussed with workers and decided "in the best interest of Airbus," he said, within three or for months.
Airbus, which in June had doubled the A380's production delay to one year, doubled it again this week to two years and said the accumulated holdups would wipe a total euro4.8 billion (US$6.1 billion) off operating profit for parent company EADS, whose shares have fallen more than 38 percent from their March 13 peak.
EADS is buying out the 20 percent of Airbus it does not already own from Britain's BAE Systems PLC, after BAE's shareholders voted Wednesday to approve the euro2.75 billion (US$3.5 billion) sale.
Analysts warn that the financial squeeze caused by the A380 crisis as well as the weaker dollar could compromise the European defense group's ability to fund the planned Airbus A350 XWB, an euro8 billion (US$10 billion) mid-sized jet program designed to compete with U.S. rival Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliner.
Streiff said "it's for the board of EADS to decide" whether to go ahead with the official launch of the A350 XWB jet program, unveiled by Airbus at July's Farnborough Air Show.
But the launch is "crucial to the development of Airbus," Streiff also said. "It's difficult to imagine being absent from a segment that represents 40 percent of the market by value."
Airbus would seek to produce the plane on one of its existing assembly lines rather than investing in a brand new one, Streiff added. "We could imagine assembling it in Toulouse and transferring the A330 and A340 to Hamburg," he said, referring to the Airbus widebody jets already in production.
Shares in European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. fell 3.2 percent to euro21.02 (US$26.66) in Paris trading.