Airbus customers may cancel A380 contracts

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The crisis enveloping EADS, the parent company of Airbus, deepened yesterday as two of the launch customers for its A380 superjumbo threatened to cancel their orders altogether.

The threat came as the French parliament was suspended amid uproar after the Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, accused the Socialist leader François Hollande of "cowardice" in a debate over the future of the embattled Franco-German aerospace company.

ILFC, the US aircraft leasing company, said it was considering cancelling some or all of a $3bn (£1.6bn) order for 10 A380s. "We are not happy and we are on safe ground to cancel the order," its chief executive, Steven Udvar-Hazy, said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines was reported, by the online aviation newsletter ATW, to be considering cancelling its order for six of the 555-seater aircraft.

The crisis at EADS, which owns 80 per cent of Airbus, was sparked a week ago after the disclosure of severe delivery delays on the A380 programme which could cost its parent company €2bn (£1.4bn in lost profits over the next four years. EADS shares crashed 26 per cent, wiping €5bn from its market capitalisation.

The French finance minister, Thierry Breton, disclosed yesterday he had held a one-hour meeting with Arnaud Lagardère, one of EADS's two co-chairman, at which possible changes to the shareholder and management structure of the company were discussed.

The Airbus débâcle has left EADS's French co-chief executive, Noel Forgeard, clinging to his job by his fingertips.