Airbus Beat 2011 Delivery Goal - Sources

January 5, 2012

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Airbus delivered more than 530 jets in 2011, beating a company forecast and almost certainly maintaining its lead over Boeing for the ninth year running, industry sources said.

The European plane maker had predicted deliveries of 520-530 aircraft, up 4 percent from the previous year as demand from emerging markets cushioned both leading aircraft manufacturers from a feeble Western economy.

Commercial aircraft production continues to grow, despite uncertainty late last year over the availability of financing, and looks to have hit a combined level above 1,000 jets for the first time in 2011.

The market for jets over 100 seats is dominated by Airbus and Boeing, with China, Russia and Canada preparing to challenge them in the lower end of the market later this decade.

Airbus declined to comment on its 2011 performance ahead of a company presentation on January 17.

Airbus overtook Boeing in 2003 in a global passenger jet market valued at USD$4 trillion over the next 20 years.

Their rivalry led to what became the world's largest trade dispute over mutual accusations of subsidies, with World Trade Organization cases expected to reach a climax in 2012.

In the first 11 months of 2011, Airbus delivered 477 aircraft and Boeing 426 aircraft.

Steady deliveries are seen as the lifeblood for both industrial titans in 2012 as doubts gather over the economy and the ability of airlines to pay for their aircraft.

Barring global recession or a disorderly break-up of the euro that could trigger widespread economic contagion, the industry insists for now that financing for the USD$80 billion - USD$100 billion needed annually to pay for deliveries is secure.

Airbus also won a bigger share of orders than its US rival in 2010 after launching a revamp to its best-selling A320 series with new fuel-saving engines.

Industry sources say Airbus is on course to end 2011 with well over 1,600 orders, pushing Boeing to the lowest market share of their 40-year rivalry.

But the gap is seen as a blip as Boeing retaliates with its own revamped 737 which is seen likely to capture most attention in 2012.

The two companies are preparing for a major battle over a USD$16 billion order from United Airlines in the first quarter expected to cover approximately 180 aircraft, including possibly 130 of the latest generation of re-engined jets.

Airbus notched up 1,521 orders between January and November against 894 for Boeing. Both companies are expected to include last-minute orders in their final end-year figures.

The two manufacturers are thought to have ended 2011 much closer in terms of order value after Boeing pulled off a record year of orders of its wide-body 777.

The USD$300 million 1990s long-range jet is enjoying a second honeymoon with airlines after Airbus failed to allay criticism of its competing A350-1000, due out in 2017.

While Airbus has been in the driving seat for narrow-bodies during most of 2011, analysts say Boeing is setting the pace for many larger jets.

Industry attention in 2012 will focus on how well both companies perform in building the next generation of carbon-composite wide-body passenger jets, the 787 Dreamliner which entered service late last year and the mid-sized Airbus A350.