$18bn Boeing wins back sales lead over Airbus

RUSSELL HOTTEN

Boeing, the US planemaker, scored a decisive victory over Airbus Industrie, its European rival, in last year's bitter battle for commercial aircraft sales.

Figures released yesterday show the American giant notched up 261 net new orders worth $18bn (pounds 12bn), dwarfing a total of just over 100 orders secured by Airbus, the consortium that includes British Aerospace.

In 1994 Airbus had pushed ahead of Boeing for the first time, achieving 125 firm orders worth $9.1bn, against Boeing's 120 aircraft worth $7.7bn.

But latest figures demonstrate how far the European partnership fell behind the world's largest aircraft company, which in November won the record $12.7bn order for 77 planes from Singapore Airlines.

Airbus' latest newsletter said yesterday that it sold 23 aircraft in November, bringing its sales to the end of that month to 99. A company spokesman said that orders placed in December, including for two aircraft by Austrian Airlines, will bring its total to just over 100 planes.

He said Airbus would release a more detailed breakdown within the next few days, adding: "Obviously we accept that Boeing well and truly beat us in 1995."

It is thought that it was a particularly bad year for sales of Airbus' family of widebody aircraft comprising the A330 and A340 jets. Airbus had made great play of overtaking Boeing in 1994, and the intensity of the rivalry spilled over into a war of words at the Paris Air Show earlier this year.

News that Boeing has comprehensively beaten Airbus in 1995 will not help the consortium's sales pitch. Boeing is expected to take the lion's share of a $2bn order from Malaysian Airlines for up to 30 aircraft, which could be announced within the next few days.

The Malaysian airline will place an order for six to eight Boeing 747- 400s, with the rest of the deal for Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s. McDonnell Douglas, whose sales figures were not available but which is expected to show a dreadful, is believed to be out of the running.

BAe makes wings for Airbus, whose other three partners are France's Aerospatiale, Germany's Daimler-Benz Aerospace, and Construcciones Aeronauticas, of Spain.

Airbus and Boeing have forecast that airlines will need to order between 13,000 to 15,000 new aircraft worth over $1,000bn in the next 20 years to replace ageing fleets and meet growing demand for air travel.

The biggest demand is coming from fast-growing Asian airlines, who are demanding new variants to meet greater range and capacity. Boeing has launched a stretched version of the 777 to offer greater capacity with the same range as the 300-seat 777-200, and is also considering a shortened long-range version - the 777-100.

Airbus is planning to spend $500m developing a longer-range but smaller version of its 335-seat A330 twin jet.

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