Last year was busy for Dassault Aviation, but chairman and CEO Eric Trappier noted possible challenges for 2020 such as the COVID-19 virus, Brexit, continuing trade tensions, “and, of course, the rise of environmental concerns.” Speaking during a press conference this morning at Dassault’s St. Cloud, Paris headquarters, Trappier said much of Dassault’s solid performance was due to the delivery of 26 Rafale fighters to export customers, while it delivered 40 Falcon business jets (compared to 41 in 2018) and took orders for a further 40 in the year (compared to 42 in 2018).
The Falcon 2019 order intake represents €2,308 billion (around $2.500 billion) versus €2.314 billion in 2018, with Trappier admitting an increased proportion of Falcon orders were from governments (and their militaries) around the world. Falcon net sales for 2019 were €2.193 billion, versus €2.599 billion in 2018, “due to a decrease in the number of new and preowned aircraft delivered.” The book-to-bill ratio was 0.78 for 2019.
Trappier said 2020 would see 13 further Rafale deliveries plus 40 Falcon jets (and thus lower net sales overall), while its backlogs amounted to 53 and 47 aircraft, respectively, as of December 31, with further Rafale orders possible from France, Switzerland, and Finland.
The record number of Rafale deliveries, to Qatar and India, propelled the group’s performance to new heights with 2019 net sales of €7.341 billion (almost $8 billion), up 44 percent over 2018. This has allowed it to invest in increased research and development and, on the business-jet side, its new Falcon 6X program and the under-study, but yet-to-be-launched "future Falcon." At the same time, however, group available cash decreased from €5.211 billion at year-end 2018 to €4.585 billion at year-end 2019.
Trappier said the 6X is on schedule for first flight early next year, with certification and entry-into-service to follow in 2022. The first tests of the Pratt & Whitney PW812D engines on a Boeing 747 flying testbed have been completed "and we’ve started to assemble the first aircraft—we just started to assemble the wings.” He added, “We’re going to announce future Falcon this year, but not today.”
The company’s solid sales performance, he said, resulted in an adjusted operating margin of 10.4 percent, compared to 9.2 percent in 2018 (adjusted to ignore Safran compensation of $280 million following the cancellation of the Falcon 5X program due to delays to the Silvercrest engine program).
The company continues a comprehensive transformation plan at its various manufacturing sites, much of it related to going “more digital.” The 3DExperience collaborative engineering platform from Dassault Systèmes will likely be used for the future Falcon, Trappier said, while he underlined the growing customer support network that benefited last year from the acquisition of service centers from ExecuJet, TAG Europe, and Ruag.