Manufacturers battling for orders at Paris Air Show

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

LE BOURGET, France -- Chicago-based Boeing Co. and its European rival, Airbus SA, both snagged new orders at the opening Monday of the world's biggest air show.

The manufacturers' intense competition was again expected to be a dominant theme of the weeklong show at Le Bourget, north of Paris. Both looked to make a big splash from the get-go.

Boeing said GE Commercial Aviation Services had ordered six of its 777 freighters, worth $1.42 billion at list prices. The order takes the number of 777s ordered by GECAS to 39, including 14 freighters.

Airbus, meanwhile, snagged an order from fast-growing Emirates airlines for eight additional A380 double-decker aircraft, a deal estimated to be worth about $2.5 billion.

The latest order brings to 55 the number of A380s ordered by the Dubai-based airline.

Qatar Airways also ordered a raft of Airbus aircraft, including 80 A350s, three A380s and three A320 family aircraft. The A350 order was a confirmation of Qatar's' earlier commitments to buy the 80 jets. Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said the order for the A350s is worth $16 billion.

Two of the orders for the A380, Airbus's flagship double-decker plane, are conversions of earlier options into firm orders, he said, and the airline is taking one new order, bringing its total order for A380s to five. The three firm orders together are worth about $750 million, he said.

Additionally, Qatar is ordering three new single-aisle jets of Airbus's A320 family.

Wiring and other technical problems are behind a costly two-year delay in delivery of the A380. The holdup is set to wipe $6.2 billion off the profit of Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. NV over the next four years.

Emirates, the largest airline in the Middle East by revenue and number of passengers carried, is by far the biggest single customer for the A380. It initially ordered 43 A380s and took another four in May. Emirates is believed to have obtained significantly improved financial terms for these aircraft and the latest batch of eight.

The Paris show comes amid revived fortunes for the commercial airline industry. After two years in the red, the industry will make a profit of just over $5 billion this year, despite rising fuel costs, said the International Air Transport Association, whose 250 members claim to represent 94 percent of international air traffic.

Airlines often reserve big announcements for the show to ensure maximum impact.

At the last show in 2005, Airbus announced orders worth $33.5 billion, double Boeing's $15 billion, based on list prices -- which are usually discounted for the deals.

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