Handovers will increase to 720 this year from 2021’s 611 aircraft, Airbus said in a statement. Image Credit: Airbus

Toulouse: Airbus posted a record net income of 4.2 billion euros ($4.66 billion) for 2021 and set plans to reinstate a dividend, in a decisive move to leave the worst of the two-year pandemic behind. A year-end delivery push helped the company retain the crown of world’s biggest planemaker for the third year in a row. The company proposed a dividend of 1.50 euros a share to be paid on April 21.

The results will allow the France-based manufacturer to reward shareholders while gearing up production of its crucial A320-family aircraft. Handovers will increase to 720 this year from 2021’s 611 aircraft, Airbus said in a statement. Airbus has targeted a ramp-up in production of the key A320-series single-aisle jet to a rate of 65 per month by mid-2023

Airbus managed to keep its finances in reasonably good shape throughout the pandemic, but the 2021 results mark a return to strength for the planemaker, which has also charted an ambitious plan to boost build rates beyond pre-Covid levels in the coming years. “Thanks to the resilience and efforts of our teams, customers and suppliers, we delivered remarkable full-year results,” CEO Guillaume Faury said in the statement.

As business improves, the challenges have shifted to supply strains and rising costs for labor and materials. The manufacturer is seeking to hire more employees and rally suppliers to the ramp-up, even as it demands price cuts going forward. While a recovery in flying is taking hold in Europe and the US, key markets in Asia continue to be held back by border curbs - including in China, where Faury has warned of a potential drag on sales.

Other issues facing Airbus include the threat of a strike at UK factories and a legal feud with one of its biggest customers, Qatar Airways, over flaking paint on the A350 wide-body. Fourth quarter earnings before interest and taxes fell 18 per cent to 1.5 billion euros from the year-earlier period, while revenue decreased 14 per cent to 17 billion euros, Airbus said.