BAE's Anti-Brexit Chairman Says U.K. Inc. Must Now Deal With It
(Bloomberg) -- BAE Systems Plc Chairman Roger Carr, one of the highest-profile campaigners for Britain to stay in the European Union before the 2016 referendum, called on U.K. companies to make the best of Brexit regardless of their views on the impending schism.
While describing himself as a so-called Remainer at heart, Carr is now preaching pragmatism and working to ensure that London-based BAE, Europe’s biggest defense company, is prepared for the challenges of a split from the EU.
“The process remains challenging and uncertain in terms of the outcome, but the business community has got to remain focused on its job,” he said in an interview after the company’s annual investor meeting in Farnborough, southwest of the U.K. capital. BAE itself is “a great example of a British-based, international business, not dependent on Europe or any one market,” he said.
Carr said he’s confident BAE’s expertise will allow it to remain a force in the defense industry, even as France and Germany press on with plans to build a new jet-fighter without U.K. involvement.
Airbus SE is BAE’s partner in the Eurofighter consortium but is working with Dassault Aviation SA on the new initiative and has said Brexit could render the British aerospace and defense sector uncompetitive and isolated.
“Politics will inevitably have a role in determining where programs are developed,” Carr said after Thursday’s meeting. “We have successful European, American and other partnerships and where we have the technology and skills that are valuable -- which BAE has -- we will continue to play a vital role.”
Prior to the Brexit vote, Carr, 71, had described any split from the EU as a “bad decision” that would put the U.K. economy at risk. He was president of the Confederation for British Industry and is a former chairman of companies including Centrica Plc, Thames Water and Cadbury Plc.
Addressing investors, Carr said he’s not concerned about a 10 percent decline in BAE’s order intake last year to 20.3 billion pounds ($28 billion), characterizing the trend as a temporary“dip” and describing the backlog as “very strong.”
Chief Executive Officer Charles Woodburn told shareholders the company is “progressing” negotiations with Saudi Arabia for the signing of a contract for 48 Eurofighter Typhoons following an initial memorandum of intent in March. The deal could be worth 8 billion pounds before discounts, including training and support expenses.
BAE has also set itself a goal of sealing financial terms on a December order from Qatar for 24 Eurofighters by the end of next month.
The company’s outlook remains unchanged, with 2018 underlying earnings per share expected to be in line with 2017.
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