Airbus Group, formerly EADS, reported on Tuesday a near doubling of quarterly net profit, strong helicopter activity, but a fall in new orders after an exceptional performance last year. Net profit for the quarter rose by 93.0 percent to 439 million euros ($604.5 million). The price of shares in the group rose by 4.38 percent to 51.66 euros in early trading in Paris. The overall French market as measured by the CAC 40 index was up 0.20 percent. The value of orders taken fell by more than half to 21.1 billion euros from 49.5 billion euros. This reflected orders taken for 103 aircraft on a net basis, after allowing for cancellations. That was far short of the figure of 410 in the first quarter of 2013 which was an exceptional year for aircraft manufacturers, notably Airbus and its main US rival Boeing. Last year was a boom period for airliner manufacturers as airlines rushed to renew their fleets after the financial crisis and in readiness for a forecast boom in air travel, mainly in emerging economies led by countries in Asia. Airbus has already said that it will not be able to match the 2013 figures for orders taken. However, Airbus Group held to its forecast that orders taken this year would exceed the number of aircraft delivered, and that its operating margin would be 7.0-8.0 percent in 2015. The forecast for the margin would be a marked increase on the figure for the first quarter, of in the first three months of 5.5 percent. Chief executive Tom Enders has made raising profitability a key target to satisfy investors, having increased the percentage of shares liable to be traded on the open market to 70 percent. This is a consequence of a capital reorganisation last year involving the progressive withdrawal of the three states which founded the group, France, Germany and Spain. - Earnings per share double - The group said that the overall performance meant that earnings per share had doubled from 28 euro cents to 56 cents. The Airbus aircraft division accounts for two thirds of group sales. Sales revenue by the group, which also has wide interests in the aerospace sector from making helicopters to satellite equipment, fell by 5.0 percent in the quarter from the equivalent figure last year to 12.6 billion euros. For the whole of this year, the group is forecasting a sales revenue total about in line with the figure last year of 59.3 billion euros. Airbus results are highly sensitive to the exchange rate of the euro, and finance director Harald Wilhelm said the group was giving this sales revenue outlook even if the value of the euro varied between $1.35 and $1.40. A Eurocopter AS 350BA helicopter hovers next to an Airbus A380 airliner on March 24, 2014 at the International Air and Space Fair (FIDAE) in Santiago © AFP/File Martin Bernetti Meanwhile, Airbus Helicopters, formerly Eurocopter, increased its number of orders taken by half. Airbus Helicopters also increased the number of aircraft delivered to 74 from 58, and so raised sales by 14.0 percent. The Airbus Defence and Space division, grouping the two activities formerly known as Astrium and Cassidian, held new orders at about the previous level. Enders said that the group was holding to its forecasts but still had much to do by the end of the year, with the emphasis being on applying restructuring programmes. The company is due to put its new A350 airliner into service by the end of the year. This aircraft is a long-haul plane with a fuselage made of composite materials. The group changed its name to Airbus Group at the beginning of this year in a major refocusing of activities after a failed attempt to merge with British group BAE Systems. It is now restructuring its defence and space activities to face increased international competition at a time of cuts in defence budgets by governments in the West. Wilhelm assured that the order book and the outlook for new orders not yet registered was strong, telling a telephone press conference that he was not worried by "one weaker quarter for orders taken compared with the performance of Boeing. At stock brokers Aurel BG in Paris, analysts said that Airbus had published solid results with sales exceeding expectations. They noted that the group had fallen behind Boeing in recent months but remained confident.