Airbus tops Boeing in orders but leaves investors worried

This means Airbus commands more than 50 per cent of the market for aircraft with more than 100 seats

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The Independent Online

Airbus’s sales narrowly beat Boeing’s last year, the plane maker said yesterday, just a month after the pan-European group spooked investors with warnings of flat profits in 2016.

The Toulouse-based Airbus, whose planes are partly made in the UK, clung on to the sales top spot for a third year running, with orders of 1,456 against 1,432 for the US group. Its rivalry with Boeing rates as one of the commercial world’s most fiercely fought duopolies and Airbus had been running behind, but nosed in front with after an unusual surge in December of 400 orders.

This means Airbus, which was once part-owned by the British defence giant BAE Systems, commands more than 50 per cent of the market for aircraft with more than 100 seats.

The news is a boost to an estimated 100,000 engineers and designers working either as part of Airbus’ 400 company-strong UK supply chain or directly at plants in Filton in South Gloucestershire and Broughton in north Wales.

Employees and analysts had been concerned after Airbus shares fell 10 per cent in one day last month, its worst single session for six years. Investors fled when executives warned that Airbus would have to again cut production of the A330, one of its most famous, but ageing, models. 

But sales of the A330neo, which burns 14 per cent less fuel than the A330, are proving more resilient than its predecessor, with the US airline Delta recently picking it over a Boeing model in a deal worth $14bn (£9bn).

Fabrice Brégier, Airbus’ chief executive and president, hailed 2014 as an “excellent year” and argued that the group had “exceeded” targets.

However, Société Générale’s aerospace analyst Zafar Khan argued that a sales difference of 22 aircraft was “neither here nor there” and pointed out that Boeing remained technically the world’s number one manufacturer as it had “out-delivered” Airbus.

Boeing handed over 723 aircraft in 2014 and Airbus 629, meaning the rivals delivered a combined 1,352 aircraft, a  6 per cent increase on the year before and an industry record. Much of this growth can be attributed to Asia’s development as an aviation hub.

In an industry fixated by this rivalry, Mr Khan cautioned that “profitability is key, not just delivering big numbers”.

Airbus’ full-year results are due in February, but its profit for the first nine months of the year was up 12 per cent to €2.6bn (£2bn).

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