UPDATE 1-Airbus says Delta jet purchase price was "competitive"

Wed Sep 4, 2013 5:26pm EDT

Sept 4 (Reuters) - The top salesman at Airbus said a deal to sell 40 aircraft to Delta Airlines, unveiled on Wednesday, included a "competitive" price for the jets.

The deal for 40 aircaft is worth $5.6 billion at list prices, but analysts said they expected Airbus to have offered steep discounts to land its first Delta order in 20 years.

Sales chief John Leahy said Airbus was pleased to have won Delta's backing for the deal.

"This was a competitive price, but I don't believe it was any different from normal. We don't talk about detailed pricing," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Leahy said his U.S. rivals had put up a tough fight.

"Boeing was a little desperate," he said.

Boeing said it had tried to win a deal that served Delta's needs while protecting its own business interests.

"We continue working with Delta as it looks to address future fleet needs," a Boeing spokesman said.

Aircraft are usually sold at discounts to official prices.

Leahy meanwhile refused to concede defeat in a widely watched competition to sell dozens of large aircraft to Japan.

"We have not given up yet," Leahy said.

Industry sources said this week Airbus was struggling to loosen Boeing's grip on Japan's two largest airlines, which need to buy billions of dollars of planes in the next decade.

In another multi-billion dollar deal awaiting clarity, Leahy said a pending order for up to 130 aircraft from American Airlines would be in the Airbus order backlog by end-year, regardless of the fate of its planned merger with U.S. Airways.

The deal does not depend on the outcome of court hearings over U.S. government objections to the merger, he said.

However, since some of the planes may be supplied by lessors who already have planes on order, not all 130 jets may be booked as brand-new Airbus orders in order to prevent double-counting.

Leahy said Airbus would formally recognize the deal in its monthly order tally once these allocations had been decided.

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