Airbus piles pressure on Boeing, Putin in Paris
By Tim Hepher and Kyle Peterson
LE BOURGET, France (Reuters) - Airbus piled up orders for its revamped A320neo passenger jet at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday, putting more pressure on Boeing and limiting scope for new rivals as Russian premier Vladimir Putin arrives to tout his country's aerospace industry.
European planemaker Airbus notched up $14.4 billion of orders on the first day, outselling U.S. rival Boeing's $9.3 billion. Early on Tuesday its sales chief said it had 544 commitments for its new A320 aircraft, including a memorandum of understanding with leasing company CIT for 50.
Airbus had also won almost 100 orders and commitments for its A320neo family of planes worth about $8.3 billion based on list prices by 0939 GMT on Tuesday.
Boeing and Airbus are locked in a strategy battle over a huge market for single-aisle aircraft, with Airbus marketing a revamped version of its A320 and Boeing holding back on deciding whether to upgrade or redesign its 737.
"I think it is going to be a different conversation at the end of the week, depending on what Airbus achieves this week in terms of orders for the neo," Henri Courpron, Chief Executive of International Finance Lease Corporation, the world's largest aircraft leasing company told Reuters.
"So if we assume, based on rumors and reports, that the neo is going to be a great success this week, then it prompts Boeing to do something. It cannot do nothing," he said.
But Boeing outsold Airbus in the market for more expensive long-haul planes, including for a new version of its most recognizable jetliner, the 747.
Airbus believes it has the upper hand with the A320neo, whose more efficient engines save airlines 15 percent in fuel costs, according to the company.
Boeing conceded it might lose some custom while it ponders the future of its 737. The firm said on Sunday it would decide by year-end on its new strategy.
China and Russia have a major presence at the air show as they look to muscle in on the two traditional passenger aircraft manufacturers, although their offerings still seem distant.
Moscow is currently pushing for Russian companies to up their spending in research and development as the government seeks to modernize and diversify the economy away from oil and gas and resources.
United Aircraft Corp will push its Sukhoi 100 superjet, and also has high hopes for its mid-sized airliner, the MC-21/MS-21.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who arrives at the air show after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon, will look to promote the Russian civilian and military aerospace sector.
Beijing also moved a step closer to creating its first passenger plane after signing deals on Monday with Safran and GE for engines and electrical cables.
Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) expects to have its C919 up and running by 2014 with first deliveries two years later, Wu Guanghui, Comac's vice-president in charge of design and engineering said on Monday.
The plane could eventually rival Airbus' A320 and Boeing's 737 in the short- and medium-haul market and it received a boost on Tuesday after signing a deal with budget carrier Ryanair for aircraft development.
Airbus had been left red-faced following a series of mishaps on the eve of the show, including a taxiway collision involving an A380 superjumbo. But it managed to scramble a Korean Air A380 to replace the damaged aircraft in aerial displays at the show.
(Additional Victoria Bryan, Gilles Guillaume and Matthias Blamont; Writing by John Irish. Editing by Jane Merriman)