donderdag 28 mei 2015

AGM Airbus, May 27 2015, Amsterdam; Tom Enders CEO: 'If you want to know more on Saudi Arabia, go to British Aerospace.'

The annual shareholders meeting of Airbus in Amsterdam is a wondrous event of grey men with ties, such as with Manfred Bischoff – one of the founding father of Airbus Defence – en Jean Claude Trichet - president of the European Central Bank from 2003 to 2011. These very expensive men have no role during the shareholders meeting. They are doing nothing the whole afternoon, except listening to a meeting with no new information for them. Both are board members. They will be joined by the Spanish Ms. Amparo Moraleda Martinez. She is the second women in a board of eleven.

It is also a wondrous event because it is dealing with sixty billion Euro annually and a complete fleet of missiles, planes and helicopters every year. It is also dealing with becoming the world leader for satellite launching in the coming ten years and beyond.

The M400A transport plane is never far away in the meeting, due to the crash of one such a plane less than three weeks before during a test flight near Sevilla. Four crew members where killed and two severely wounded. Why the plane crashed is not yet clear. Airbus has its hypotheses but is waiting for information held by the Spanish government. Will it influence the results of Airbus Defense and Space, one of the shareholders wants to know, 11% of total Airbus revenues come from that division, 'we expect not that much,' is the answer.

The other topic raised by shareholders is the signing of a Memorandum of Intent earlier this week by the defence ministers of Germany, France and Italy and Airbus Defense and Space, Dassault Aviation and Finmeccanica, to conduct a study which has to lead to a decision on whether or not to develop a European Multi Attitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone. 'A next study,' CEO Tom Enders complains. 'But they want it.' 'Is this programme supported by governments,' a German shareholder asks on behalf of one of the peace demonstrators outside. 'Without government support no defence market,' Enders replies.
As expected I got no answer to my question on the use of the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft in Yemen. British press reported that the Saudi's employed the Eurofighters in bombing raids on Yemen. 'Were the Saudi's satisfied with its performance?' was my question. 'We give no operational information on our clients,' replies Airbus CEO Enders. 'Is the EFA adapted to drop CBU-105 bombs, which are in the inventories of Saudi Arabia?' I asked, because remains of those cluster ammunition was found in Yemen. Enders replied: 'As far as I know none of the EFA's is adapted for this, because the use of cluster ammunition is forbidden in the producing countries.' He had no idea about Saudi Arabian inventories he says and if I wanted to know more 'go to British Aerospace, they are responsible for Saudi Arabia.' So although Airbus has a 46 percent ownership of the Eurofighter consortion, responsibility is swept off the table.

The tongue-in-cheek arrogance of a captain of industry employing 138.000 people (of which ninety percent in the EU) showed when Enders wondered about the fact that had to talk about developments in 2014 in a meeting in May 2015, because Dutch law makes this mandatory. Although it makes some sense he should not complain however. The same Dutch law provides him with very favourable tax laws for his international company.

During the voting session, most of the resolutions where supported with 98-99 percent of the votes. More critical votes came at issues such as for the shares and salary policy of the Airbus board of directors. Big opposition however appearded against nomination of Ms. Martinez to the board. Initially the Spanish government had an other candidate in mind, but that turned out to be “Belen Romana, former head of Spain’s ‘bad bank’ Sareb”, according to the Irish Times. Not the best candidate, but the female alternative met with resistance. 44 Percent voted against her appointment. When she was voted in, Tom Enders raised his fist in triumph. He himself also earned a next period.

When I left the meeting, one of the other shareholders asked me if I had felt well in the meeting, as I was the only one asking questions on the industry of war. Well, it would have been nice if more people would have asked critical questions, but for me it was an afternoon where I could get a glimpse of world on which I normally only read and write. I was told that last year, Tom Enders had prepared a long reply for critical shareholders. The shareholder also said that he hoped for more people with critical questions next year.