Airbus gets dollars 180m of new orders

AIRBUS, the European civil aircraft consortium that includes British Aerospace, has won new orders worth up to dollars 180m ( pounds 90m), writes Mary Fagan. Shorouk Air, a joint venture between Egyptair and Kuwait Airways, has signed contracts for two A320 airliners and options for two more.

Although no value was put on the deal, a single Airbus costs around dollars 45m. Airbus said that firm orders for the A320 stand at 703 from 37 customers worldwide.

The orders came as Airbus's rival, McDonnell Douglas of the US, said that it was looking for partners in the civil aircraft business in the face of increasingly tough competition within the industry.

Speaking at the Farnborough Air Show, John Capellupo, McDonnell Douglas's vice- president, said alliances were crucial if its aircraft manufacturing arm was to survive.

He also predicted further heavy job-shedding throughout the aerospace industry as firms struggled to cut costs.

Airbus has toppled McDonnell Douglas from the number two slot in the civil aircraft business after Boeing, another US giant. Mr Capellupo said he could reverse the change with the right partners.

Talks with several companies, including Taiwan Aerospace, were taking place. The US company would retain the main stake in any significant alliance, he said.

Mr Capellupo declined to comment on how talks were progressing with third parties concerning the future of McDonnell Douglas's helicopter manufacturing division. He said investment bankers were working on it.

Meanwhile, Farnborough provided a platform for order announcements from GEC. GEC Avionics has secured a contract worth more than pounds 40m to supply submarine tracking equipment for the Royal Navy's new Merlin helicopter.

GEC-Plessey, based in Portsmouth, has won an order worth up to pounds 10m with Elmer of Italy to supply navigational technology for the European Fighter Aircraft.

GEC also said that it was seeking to acquire more missile and target-sensor firms. The company bought Ferranti's missiles business last year.