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European arms industry profits amid Ukraine invasion

Overview

This brief report examinez the findings by the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) which has delved into the financial performance of the top 15 European arms manufacturers in 2022. It was a tumultuous year defined by the invasion by Russia if Ukraine. Based on data from the SIPRI Top 100 list, the report examines whether these firms have capitalised on Russia’s invasion and increased European military spending.

Methodology

The financial performance metrics by ENAAT primarily focused on Earnings Before Interest and Taxation (EBIT) or, in some cases, adjusted EBIT and operating profits. Revenue and profit data were gathered in local currencies and converted to Euros using the average annual exchange rate for 2022. Comparison is made with 2021 data, which were also converted from dollars to Euros based on the corresponding average annual exchange rate.

Key Findings by ENAAT

Revenue

  • Total arms sales in 2022: €95.8 billion, representing a 1.5% real-term increase over 2021.
  • Companies with highest growth: Airbus (+17%), BAE Systems (+9.7%)

Profits

  • Total operating profit (excluding MBDA): €17.6 billion, a 14.3% increase in real terms.
  • Adjusted Profit Growth: When excluding the civil divisions of companies like Airbus, Rolls Royce, Rheinmetall, and ThyssenKrupp, the profit growth rate stands at 11.2%.
  • Notable Turnaround: Babcock went from a loss of €33m in 2021 to a profit of €279m in 2022.

Stock Market Performance

  • Most Significant Growth: Rheinmetall (+119%), Saab (+78%), Thales (+57%), BAE (+41%)
  • Note: Some firms are not publicly traded, limiting stock performance data.

Geopolitical Context

The invasion of Russia by Ukraine, which turned into a full scale onslaight on February 24, 2022, appears to have an ambiguous correlation with the performance of European arms firms. Much of the military hardware sent to Ukraine in 2022 came from existing stocks. However, new European Union (EU) funding mechanisms are slated to kick in from the second half of 2023, potentially further boosting the arms industry.

Future Implications

Two EU programs—EDIRPA and ASAP—are expected to inject significant funding into the European arms industry, especially to support Ukraine and Moldova. EDIRPA will fund €300 million in 2024-2025 for joint procurements of military equipment, while ASAP will contribute €500 million in the same period for ammunition production.

Ethical Considerations

The surge in profits for many of these firms raises questions about the ethics of profiting from war, especially one as devastating as the Ukrainian invastion.

Conclusion

The top 15 European arms manufacturers saw a noticeable uptick in revenues and profits in 2022, a year defined by the Ukraine conflict and increased European military spending. While it is unclear how directly the war has contributed to this growth, these companies stand to gain even more from upcoming EU funding initiatives. Ethical concerns about profiting from warfare remain unresolved.

Recommendations by ENAAT

  1. Further research is required to isolate the impact of the Ukraine conflict on the arms industry’s profits.
  2. Policy debates should consider ethical guidelines around profiteering in conflict zones.
  3. Scrutiny should be applied to the allocation of upcoming EU funds earmarked for military expenditure to ensure responsible and ethical use.

References

  • SIPRI Arms Industry Database
  • European Defence Industry Reinforcement through common Procurement Act (EDIRPA)
  • Regulation on supporting ammunition production (ASAP)