Airbus to exceed order forecast: exec

Airbus will easily exceed its 2010 forecast for up to 300 new plane orders and could reach as high as 400 by year's end, the planemaker's sales chief said on Tuesday.

John Leahy told Reuters Insider TV that Airbus had secured 182 new orders already this week at the Farnborough Airshow and would likely end the show with around 200 orders.

"So far we are up to 182 at the end of the second day of the show," Leahy said.

"Now I can't keep up this pace for the rest of the show but I do think we will be closing in on probably closing in around 200 maybe a little bit less a little bit more, but that's pretty impressive. I think it says the market is back.

"Our full year target was 300 aircraft sold so clearly we are going to go past that the question how much past that. I think the full year number will probably be between 300 and 400. It's not a full recovery but clearly it is a recovery."

Airbus entered the show with 131 orders and Leahy said beforehand that Airbus could double this cumulative tally for 2010 by the end of Farnborough.

Many of the orders Airbus closed at the show were with aircraft leasing companies, who are among the first to pull back from the market when the industry weakens and the first to get back in when it recovers.

"The fact they are back means that the market is recovering," Leahy said.

Leahy also said Airbus (EAD.PA) cannot wait until the end of the year to make a decision on whether to upgrade its A320 series of plane with new engines. He has said it plans to finalize a study on re-engining by the end of September, for a possible decision in the fourth quarter.

"We have a very good business case to re-engine the A320. We are looking at our engineering resources. ... I'm confident we can do it then we will be out in the market in early October with our new engine option."

He expressed confidence in the development of Airbus's answer to the Boeing (BA.N) 787, the wide-body Airbus A350.

"If we are late on the A350, it might be a couple of months, but right now all we are doing is eating into the margin.

"So far we are right on track for summer 2013. It's a challenge but it's looking good. We are on track and we are very confident we will get there."

Leahy dismissed the threat from Canadian Bombardier's (BBDb.TO) 110-130 seat C-Series which aims to compete with the lower end of the A320 range of short- and medium-haul jets.

While doing so, he took an indirect swipe at emerging players such as China, Japan and Russia.

"We wish our friends in Canada well, as well as the other little airline manufacturers that are trying to spring up around the world.

If we re-engine the A320 family, Boeing will re-engine the 737. ...If we do that, and I think it's highly likely, there is no case for the C-Series. If we don't yes, there is a small, niche market."

Bombardier failed to complete an expected deal with Qatar Airways for C-Series planes at Farnborough this week.

Bombardier Commercial Aircraft President Gary Scott said this week it is currently talking to dozens of potential C-series customers around the world. A handful of those discussions are in the advanced stage, he told Reuters.

[Source: By Darcy Lambton, Reuters, Farnborough, 21Jul10]

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