Airbus jet-sales blitz tops Boeing at air show

Instruments and dials are seen in the pilot's cockpit of a Falcon 7x aircraft, produced by Dassault Aviation, as it stands on display on the second day of the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, UK, on Tuesday. The Farnborough International Air Show, which runs July 14-20, is this year's biggest forum for aircraft introductions and sales. — Bloomberg News

London: Airbus Group dominated the opening of the Farnborough Air Show with a $21 billion sales blitz and extended its run on the second day to grab an early lead over Boeing at the aviation industry's biggest expo.

Boeing's pulled in about $7.7 billion on the first day. The Chicago-based planemaker followed up Tuesday with an order from Air Lease valued at $3.9 billion, before Airbus retaliated with a rapid-fire string of deals that included the largest-ever single-aisle aircraft order by a leasing company, with SMBC Aviation Capital buying jets for $11.8 billion.

Airbus's fast start at the event outside London offered welcome news to a company that amassed only 290 net aircraft orders after cancellations during the first half, trailing Boeing's 499. Toulouse, France-based Airbus also used the show's opening day to offer an upgraded version of the A330 wide-body, reaping a $6.9 billion deal.

"Airbus has a fondness for air-show fireworks," Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Fairfax, Virginia-based Teal Group, said in a phone interview.

The European manufacturer also secured an order from BOC Aviation Ltd. for 43 single-aisle aircraft, followed by an announcement by CIT Leasing that it would by A330 wide-bodies as well as single-aisle aircraft valued at $4.7 billion, before Avolon Leasing Group topped off the morning with the purchase of A330s for $4.1 billion.

Lessors' role
The annual forum, which alternates between Paris and Farnborough, spotlights the competition between Airbus and Boeing for global sales supremacy. The event brings together manufacturers, airlines, lessors, suppliers and inventors for a flurry of meetings and dealmaking.

Airbus owed part of its first-day show bounce to lessors, whose support is important because they place jets with multiple airlines — a step toward ensuring wider customer acceptance of planemakers' offerings.
The A330neo's first operator will be Los Angeles-based Air Lease, whose chief executive officer, Steven Udvar-Hazy, had urged Airbus to offer a version of the 20-year-old A330 with upgraded, more-efficient engines. Air Lease also booked an order for 60 of Airbus's single-aisle A321 model.

Opening day
AerCap Holdings said it would buy 50 A321neos worth $5.14 billion, the first jet purchase since the world's biggest independent aircraft lessor bought Hazy's former company, International Lease Finance, for $7.6 billion in May.

The early results don't fully reflect customer discussions that could yield more sales later in the year, John Wojick, Boeing's chief commercial aircraft salesman, said in an interview. "Sales ebb and flow," he said.

Boeing's opening-day order book included five sales of its single-aisle 737 Max and six orders for the 787-9 Dreamliner, the newest version of the carbon-fibre plane, to lessor Avolon Holdings. The Bloomberg Industries tally for Boeing and Airbus included orders and options.

According to the people familiar with Boeing's order discussions, Air Lease may buy 20 of the planemaker's 737 Max single-aisle jet and six 777 wide-bodies, while BOC Aviation is set to commit to at least 50 of the Max jets. The people asked not to be identified because the details are private.

Discount rates
Jet buyers typically negotiate discounted rates, so list- price aircraft valuations don't translate directly into revenue. Planemakers also draw a distinction between firm orders, such as Air Lease's agreement on Monday for A321neos, and commitments, such as the planned purchase of the A330neo.

For Airbus, keeping all of Monday's firm orders — and confirming the preliminary agreements — will be especially important after a first half marked by 225 cancellations. That compares with 54 for Boeing.
Sales of long-haul jets, a market where Boeing and Airbus share a duopoly, have cooled this year. Boeing announced just nine new wide-body orders in the first half of the year, while Airbus's twin-aisle jet order book shrank by 21 jets.

Planemakers and customers are absorbing a record backlog of almost 11,500 commercial aircraft orders placed in recent years with a collective retail value of more than $1 trillion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Industries.

"The persistent comment from commercial aerospace managements is that nothing has changed — they are still seeing a strong outlook," Robert Stallard, an RBC Capital Markets analyst, said in a note to clients that cited meetings with company executives.


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