Airbus: Boeing logged more orders in 2007

Airbus: Boeing logged more orders in 2007
TOULOUSE, France (AP) - Airbus said Wednesday it trailed Boeing Co. in logging new orders last year by a total of 72 civilian jets, but beat its U.S. rival on deliveries.

The European aircraft maker reported a record 1,341 net orders for 2007, compared with 1,413 for Boeing.

The Airbus orders were mostly for passenger jets, but included 66 freighters. Airbus did not give a monetary value for the orders, which would be worth $157.1 billion (106 billion euros) at catalog prices. Airlines usually negotiate substantial discounts to the list price.

In deliveries, Airbus clocked another record and beat Boeing 453 to 441 in 2007. It said it delivered 19 more jets than in 2006 - including handing over to Singapore Airlines the first superjumbo A380, the world's biggest passenger jet that has suffered costly production problems and delays.

"This is a record year," said Chief Executive Thomas Enders at a press conference. "Now it becomes a question of how we manage the backlog."

Airbus projected that its 2008 orders will exceed deliveries, of which it has scheduled more than 470.

The company, which has been through a rough patch in recent years, also said it beat its own goals for lowering costs in 2007.

However, jet sales are expected to slow considerably for both Airbus and Boeing in 2008.

But planemakers will be cushioned from the slowdown by bulging order books that will take several years to fill. Airbus said at the end of last year it had a backlog of 3,421 aircraft, representing six years of production at steadily increasing rates.

Airbus expects to boost production of its best-selling A320 single-aisle plane to 40 a month in 2010, from 34 a month in 2008 and 20 a month in 2003.

Production of the superjumbo A380 will increase to four a month in 2010 from one in 2008, the planemaker said.

Airbus ceded the top sales spot to Boeing in 2006 after the U.S. planemaker introduced a new plane, the 787 Dreamliner, and restructured its sales team, freeing it to offer discounts.

Airbus, by contrast, was hampered by a series of increasingly worrying announcements, beginning June 2005, which revealed botched management of the A380 superjumbo, delaying delivery by almost two years and hurting profits at parent company EADS.

That resulted in an overhaul of top executives and a restructuring plan that aims to recoup 2 billion euros ($2.95 billion) in savings by 2010 and cut 10,000 jobs.

Enders said Wednesday that it exceeded its target last year with cost cutting of almost 500 million euros ($739 million).

Louis Gallois, CEO of Airbus' parent EADS, has said the European planemaker will need to find additional savings to offset the weaker dollar.

"On the basis of the current exchange rate we have to find extra savings from somewhere. We are seriously discussing what this could be," Enders told reporters.

Airbus revenue has been hit as the greenback's fall erodes the sale price of its planes in dollars.

Airbus also plans to continue its "internationalization" by shifting production abroad, Enders said.

EADS blamed the slump in the dollar and delays with the A400M military transport aircraft for a much steeper third-quarter loss of $1.14 billion (776 million euros). Full year results will be published on March 11.

Shares in EADS were down by 1.7 percent in Wednesday morning trade on the Paris stock exchange, at 18.26 euros ($26.48) a share.

Airbus clocked 1,458 gross orders. The difference with the net is partly explained by the subtraction of orders for the new version of its planned A350, a midsize, long-range aircraft that it has redesigned and redubbed the A350 XWB.

Airbus said the A350 XWB had clocked 292 firm orders by the end of 2007, all but two of which came last year.

Airbus was forced to come up with new plans for the A350, which competes with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, after customers ordered a costly redesign that pushed back production. Enders said engineers should fix a specific design for the A350 XWB in the second half of this year.

Boeing is facing its own problems with the 787, which has already been hit with two delays, most recently last October, when Boeing said supply chain and assembly line problems had forced it to push back flight testing until March.

On Wednesday, Boeing said it was going to push back the inaugural flight for its much-anticipated 787 Dreamliner jet by as much as three months, delaying the plane's test flight until the end of the second quarter to allow additional time to assemble the massive aircraft.