Brazil’s Embraer bets on smaller jets for post-pandemic success


In its quest to roar again after the turmoil of the pandemic, Brazilian aerospace and defence group Embraer is imagining a not so far-off way forward for flying taxis and electrical planes.

But because it strives to double revenues over 5 years, the world’s third-largest business airplane maker has pinned its hopes on a extra prosaic prediction: that the restoration in air journey will contain better use of the smaller passenger jets which might be its area of interest.

After two years of upheaval for the worldwide aviation business, Embraer is because of return to the black in 2022, in accordance with chief government Francisco Gomes Neto.

“We expect to deliver a net profit at the end of the year. This is an important step,” he informed the Financial Times in an interview at Embraer’s headquarters within the metropolis of São José dos Campos. “Our plan is big growth . . . [it] follows the resumption of domestic flights, which is where our planes fit in.” 

A share value surge of 45 per cent made the corporate the most effective performer on the native Bovespa index in 2021. After axing 2,500 jobs in the course of the pandemic, an effectivity drive and debt discount helped it swing again into optimistic free money circulate. As it ramps up manufacturing, the group has just lately introduced 1,000 new vacancies.

But to persuade traders, particularly after a pointy fall within the inventory this yr, it should overcome scepticism about its capability to broaden additional in a civil plane sector dominated by Boeing and Airbus.

Doubts over the long run form and path of an enterprise thought-about the crown jewel of Brazilian business had been compounded by the acrimonious collapse of a deliberate tie-up with Boeing. Not lengthy after airports shuttered early within the pandemic, the US titan terminated a three way partnership settlement that may have given it an 80 per cent stake in Embraer’s business plane operations for $4.2bn. 

Gomes Neto dominated out any massive disposals or a break-up, saying: “We are open to other partnerships, but not the type that would dismember the company [or] sell off a piece.” With a purpose of a twofold improve on final yr’s shrunken income of $4.2bn by 2026, he added the best potential lay in boosting turnover at its business aviation division.

Embraer is the main producer of regional jets, which historically have as much as about 120 seats, fly shorter distances and are hottest in North America.

The firm anticipates delivering 60 to 70 civil plane in 2022, up from 48 final yr, and will attain near 100 by the top of the five-year interval, stated Gomes Neto. By comparability, Airbus expects to ship 720.

Global aircraft makers have endured a torrid two years

Over the previous quarter of a century, airways have migrated in the direction of upsized planes in a bid to spice up gas effectivity and decrease unit prices.

A pillar of Embraer’s technique is its “E2” medium-range plane, the second technology of its E-Jet household and bigger than its mainstay of regional fashions. Capable of carrying between 80 and 146 passengers, they stray extra into the small, narrow-body mainline jet bracket and, the corporate claims, emit much less noise and decrease carbon dioxide emissions per seat.

Embraer executives imagine there shall be adjustments in flying patterns following Covid-19, with decrease development in air journey, fewer enterprise journeys and extra individuals shifting to smaller cities, favouring the smaller fashions it makes. “Airlines are going to look for planes that fit this level of demand,” predicted Rodrigo Silva e Souza, Embraer’s vice-president of selling for business aviation.

But the Brazilian producer stays exterior the seat class the place there may be most demand from carriers, stated Citi analyst Stephen Trent.

“Where they are in global commercial aerospace at the moment, certainly the prospects look better than they have over the past two years,” he stated. “But on a long-term basis, I’m still worried that there just aren’t that many airlines super interested in this aircraft class.

In the last decade to 2031, 13,000 plane within the 150-plus passenger section are projected for supply, in accordance with information from consultancy Cirium. For regional jets with between 85 and 150 seats, the place Embraer performs, the forecast is simply 3,500.

Bar chart of By division (%) showing Embraer’s revenue breakdown

Embraer shall be cautious of the destiny of its historic adversary in regional jets, Bombardier. Canada’s former industrial champion was nearly bankrupted after going face to face in opposition to Airbus and Boeing in mainline plane with its C Series, a small single-aisle providing. The bitter rivals undercut the challenger, which ended up divesting the programme to Airbus in 2017 and stop business aviation totally to deal with non-public jets.

“We still expect Airbus and Boeing’s larger aircraft to dominate the single-aisle space including at the smaller end,” stated Rob Morris, international head of Cirium’s consultancy arm, Ascend by Cirium.

Aside from overlap between its E195-E2 mannequin and the C Series, renamed the A220, in most enterprise segments Embraer doesn’t compete straight with Boeing and Airbus, say executives on the Brazilian firm. However, the smallest of its three-model E2 household faces an impediment from US pilot agreements that restrict the load and capability of plane deployed by airways’ regional associates.

Outside business aviation, which contains a couple of third of group revenues, Embraer is using a worldwide growth in government jets. It expects to promote as much as 110 in 2022, up from 93 in 2021.

While the tempo could gradual in coming years, stated Gomes Neto, it will be a “soft landing” with continued development. “We are sold out for practically all of 2023, and are now selling for the second half of 2024,” he stated.

He added that geopolitical tensions arising from the battle in Ukraine had additionally elevated curiosity in two of Embraer’s navy plane: the A-29 Super Tucano fighter airplane and the C-390 Millennium transport craft — though Brazil’s air pressure just lately minimize an order of the latter from 28 to 22.

Another guess for the long run is electrical vertical take-off and touchdown, or eVTOL, plane. Embraer’s Eve unit, just lately spun off right into a US-listed particular objective acquisition firm, or Spac, has an order backlog of $5bn and is concentrating on business operations by 2026.

An employee works on an aircraft assembly line
The Legacy 500 mannequin meeting line. Embraer is cautious of the destiny of its historic adversary, Bombardier, which was nearly bankrupted after competing with Airbus and Boeing © Paulo Fridman/Corbis by way of Getty Images

While shares in a number of related air taxi Spacs have slumped as specialists fear about hype, analysts and executives say Embraer’s file in testing and certification offers it a bonus over newer start-ups. Rivals Boeing and Airbus are additionally pouring a whole bunch of tens of millions into this subject.

Other areas of curiosity embody a spread of low-emission planes underneath improvement and a next-generation turboprop for regional airways.

In the brief time period, although, traders will need to see additional monetary enhancements. Embraer’s web losses narrowed to $44.7mn final yr from a deficit of $732mn in 2020. But a manufacturing shutdown owing to the ultimate reintegration of the business aviation unit contributed to pink ink of $31.7mn within the first quarter.

Embraer’s inventory has shed round half its worth up to now this yr, giving the corporate a market capitalisation of roughly $1.8bn. Its boss attributed this to a combination of investor frustration over its steerage, provide chain points and the Ukraine battle’s wider affect on equities. Boeing has additionally fallen by round 37 per cent and Airbus is down greater than 5 per cent.

Marjan Riggi of Kroll Bond Rating Agency highlighted as encouraging Embraer’s elevated order backlog — at $17.3bn, the very best degree in 4 years — and a restoration within the US regional airline sector.

“The [quarterly] numbers still don’t look great, but you see a pretty positive trajectory,” she stated.

Video: Are electrical air taxis and commuter planes actually getting nearer? | FT Rethink