For First Time Ever, Airbus Tops Boeing In Deliveries

For First Time Ever, Airbus Tops Boeing In Deliveries
PARIS - European airplane manufacturer Airbus SA said Thursday it delivered 305 jets in 2003, beating its own forecast of 300 and making it the market leader over Boeing for the first time.

The total barely topped Airbus' 303 deliveries in 2002, and the company said it expects "close to 300" in 2004 in a market that's likely to remain "soft."

"Airbus has the biggest order book, received more orders and delivered more aircraft than its competitor," Philippe Camus, co-chief executive of European Aeronautic, Defense and Space Co., which owns 80 percent of Airbus, said Wednesday. "This trend will continue for some years."

Boeing earlier this month reported 281 aircraft deliveries in 2003 and is forecasting between 275 and 290 this year.

Todd Blecher, a spokesman for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Renton, Wash., said Thursday that the company was not surprised that Airbus delivered more airplanes.

"We've known that was likely to happen since late 2001, because in the aftermath of 9-11 we decided to dramatically to reduce our production in these years to match the production our customers have."

Boeing was harder hit than Airbus by the slump in the civil aircraft market that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It slashed production to 281 aircraft from 570, while Airbus simply shelved a plan to ramp up production to 450.

"This is a market of two producers and in some years they will deliver more airplanes than us and in some years we'll deliver more airplanes than them," Blecher said. "Our real focus is managing a healthy business, not pursuing a market share."

Boeing's weaker showing in a difficult and competitive market meant that Airbus's share of global deliveries jumped to 52 percent last year from 44 percent in 2002 and 38 percent in 2001.

Airbus said it recorded revenue of 19.3 billion euros ($24.4 billion) in 2003, slightly down from the 19.5 billion euros reported a year before.

Boeing has accused Airbus of spoiling the market by producing too many planes.

Airbus said it booked orders for 284 aircraft worth a total of $32.8 billion last year. Taking into account 30 cancelations during the year, net new orders totaled 254.

Executives at EADS have said they don't anticipate an upturn in the civil aircraft market anytime soon, and expect Airbus deliveries to stay around their 2002-2003 level through 2005.

Airbus president and chief executive Noel Forgeard said the company "managed the difficulties of 2003 quite well and ... is now in a good position to fully benefit from the market recovery when it comes."

EADS shares fell 17 euro cents (22 cents) to close at 18.25 euros ($23.10) in Paris. Boeing shares fell 7 cents to close at $43.04 on the New York Stock Exchange.