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Airbus on course for record jetliner orders in 2023, sources say

Published 12/19/2023, 01:22 PM
Updated 12/19/2023, 07:16 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Airbus is seen at the Milipol Paris, the worldwide exhibition dedicated to homeland security and safety, in Villepinte near Paris, France, November 15, 2023. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo

By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus is on course to break aerospace order records in 2023 after a buying spree from European airlines and a brisk month so far in deliveries, industry sources said on Tuesday.

Orders for a total of almost 200 jets from easyJet (LON:EZJ) and Lufthansa on Tuesday looked set to push gross orders so far this year above the record of around 1,800 in 2014, the peak of the last major cycle, as airlines gamble on a scarcity of jets.

Gross or unadjusted orders give a rough indication of the pace of market activity in a particular year, though analysts say a more widely watched indicator of a jetmaker's performance is "net orders", which exclude cancellations and conversions.

Those figures will not be officially available until January, but the sources said there are strong chances that Airbus also will breach the previous record of more than 1,500 net orders.

Airbus declined comment on possible end-year totals before a full-year announcement expected around Jan. 11.

Airlines are scrambling to order new planes to renew existing fleets amid fears of a shortage in coming years.

Both Airbus and Boeing (NYSE:BA), which also posted a key Lufthansa order on Tuesday, could announce more deals this month, buoyed by the snapback in demand after the COVID-19 pandemic, industry sources said.

The looming record caps the decades-long sales career of Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer as he prepares to become CEO of the overall civil jetliner business in the new year.

The 16,000-plane tally of former Airbus sales chief John Leahy in the 1994-2017 period remains the industry's most sustained sales haul.

On Friday, Turkish Airlines announced 220 new Airbus orders plus 10 A350-900s which had already been on Airbus' books without the buyer's name being immediately disclosed. It has indicated it plans to place a comparable mega-order with Boeing.

DELIVERIES NEARING TARGET

Despite the positive end-year note, Airbus is also digesting a strategic loss at Thai Airways, which is finalising an order for 80 GE-powered Boeing 787s after disagreements over pricing with long-time supplier Rolls-Royce (OTC:RYCEY), which powers the competing Airbus A350 and previously ordered 787s, industry sources said.

None of the parties has commented on ongoing negotiations.

Reuters first reported on Dec. 7 that the Thai carrier was closing in on the 80-plane deal with Boeing after increasing its requirement for wide-body jets in September. A proposed parallel order for 15 narrow-body jets does not appear to be imminent.

On the industrial side, Airbus delivered 623 aircraft between January and November, leaving it with 97 to deliver in December to reach its annual target of 720 aircraft.

With just over 10 days to go, the total has reached some 680 planes, industry sources said, taking some of the urgency out of the company's traditional end-year scramble to hit its target.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Airbus is pictured outside the Airbus facility in Saint-Nazaire, France, November 7, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

It is the second time since the pandemic that Airbus has tried to hit 720 deliveries after supply pressures dashed the attempt last year.

After a weak start to the year, analysts have voiced increasing confidence that Airbus will meet its delivery targets in 2023, but say next year will be challenging, with the production ramp-up hampered by shortages of materials and parts.

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