Airbus sales chief aims to hit 750 plane orders in 2013

MOBILE, Alabama Mon Apr 8, 2013 3:23pm EDT

1 of 3. Fabrice Bregier, Airbus President and CEO shakes hands with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), after breaking ground on its first U.S. assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama April 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lyle Ratliff

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MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - The sales chief at EADS EAD.PA unit Airbus said on Monday the aircraft maker can sell 750 jets this year, confirming the top end of a 700-750 sales range the company has previously announced.

"I'm still standing by my target of 750 planes sold this year," said John Leahy, chief operating officer for customers. He added that he expected "a good year but not a great year in terms of orders" in 2013.

The company expects to achieve first flight of its A350 jet in "the coming three months," Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said in the sidelines of a groundbreaking ceremony for a $600 million Airbus factory in Mobile.

Leahy said he expects to see "80 or so orders being booked for the A350" in 2013.

Bregier said he expected the Mobile assembly plant to create 5,000 jobs, including 1,000 positions at the plant. Airbus has said it spends $13 billion per year with U.S. suppliers currently.

Bregier said the Airbus decision to switch to nickel-cadmium batteries from lithium-ion for the A350 was the safest and simplest choice and that Airbus didn't want to add any uncertainty to that plane's certification process, currently underway.

"There will be a very smooth shift to this very common technology," he said, noting that the shift would have no impact on the time frame for the A350.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Mobile, Alabama; Editing by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Chris Reese)

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