2012 CFOs to Watch

CFO Hans Peter Ring leads aerospace giant EADS' flight to resilience.

When contemplating the challenges posed by the eurozone debt crisis, Hans Peter Ring, CFO of EADS, draws comfort from the aerospace and defense giant’s performance since 2008. “A major achievement of the last few years is that the company proved to be resilient throughout the financial crisis,” Ring says. “We anticipated the downturn before the financial crisis started and tried to prepare ourselves as well as we could. As a result, we went through the crisis in such a way that we didn’t feel the crisis internally—we didn’t suffer on our top line and we didn’t suffer in terms of deliveries. That was the first time that we’ve achieved that during a downturn.”

Ring should know—he has had a long career at EADS. He joined a predecessor company, Dasa, in 1990 after 13 years at German aerospace company MBB. At EADS, which stands for European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., Ring has held the CFO post since 2002 and also served as CFO for Airbus, the company’s aircraft manufacturing unit, from 2007 to 2008.

Besides high volatility in the markets and the uncertain future of the euro, EADS, which turned over 45.8 billion euros ($60.7 billion) in 2010 and employs 122,000, also faces challenges posed by a number of governments’ adoption of austerity measures that will impact the countries’ defense budgets.

Ring says these issues are not insurmountable. “The military business in our home countries and also in the U.S. is not growing and in some countries, in real terms, is even decreasing,” says Ring. “That needs to be managed. Linked to that, what we want to do is go to the export markets to globalize the government businesses, particularly the defense, security and space businesses, in order to compensate for the shortfalls we may have in our home markets. We have already had quite some success in the areas of security business and border protection.”

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