Europe’s Astrium Reports Steady Sales, Good Near-term Prospects

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PARIS — European space hardware and services provider Astrium on Nov. 12 reported stable revenue and increased backlog for the nine months ending Sept. 30 and said its near-term prospects in government and commercial markets look favorable.

The company, which is prime contractor for Europe’s Ariane 5 launch vehicle and the French M51 strategic missile and is one of Europe’s three principal satellite manufacturers, said revenue for the first nine months of 2010 equaled the performance of a year ago despite a one-time revenue contribution in 2009 of 200 million euros ($280 million) in satellite performance incentives.

Revenue totaled 3.2 billion euros. Order backlog increased by 2.5 percent, to 15.3 billion euros, reflecting bookings for the M51.2 missile evolution from France’s arms procurement agency, DGA.

Astrium’s owner, European aerospace conglomerate EADS, said the space division’s pretax profit improved marginally, to 4.9 percent of revenue compared with 4.8 percent a year earlier.

In a conference call with investors, EADS Chief Financial Officer Hans Peter Ring said the parent company is satisfied with Astrium’s performance in recent years and is confident the business will gradually improve its profit margins. EADS officials in the past have said they want Astrium to reach a 5 percent pretax profit margin. Its margins were 5.4 percent for all of 2009 and 5.5 percent in 2008.

For the first nine months of 2010, Astrium’s revenue was 51 percent from defense contracts, and 49 percent civil and commercial. The defense side includes military satellites, both for telecommunications and Earth observation.

Astrium’s Space Transportation division, which includes Ariane 5, the M51 and the company’s work on the international space station, accounted for 44 percent of the revenue, or 1.42 billion euros.

Some 33.7 percent of the total revenue came from Astrium Satellites, with the remaining 23 percent from Astrium Services, whose business includes the Spot Image and Infoterra Earth observation businesses, and contracts with the British, French and other defense agencies to provide telecommunications.

Ring said improved profitability at Astrium Services, whose revenue totaled 740.7 million euros for the first nine months of the year, contributed to the improvement in pretax profit.