UPDATE 1-Delta Air CEO to back US Export-Import Bank support to Boeing-WSJ

Tue Jun 24, 2014 2:37am EDT

(Add comment from Delta in paragraph 5)

June 24 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc's CEO is expected to support the U.S. Export-Import Bank's assistance for sales of Boeing Co's widebody jets, softening his stance at a time when critics are mounting pressure to wind down the agency, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Delta Airlines has long argued that Ex-Im Bank financing allows foreign competitors to buy Boeing planes on better credit terms than it can obtain.

Delta's chief executive, Richard Anderson, plans to use a speech at the Aero Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to distance the company from the calls of some Republicans and small-government advocates for the bank to be wound down, the Journal said. (on.wsj.com/1wq8PT4)

According to a draft of the speech obtained by the Journal, Anderson is expected to propose that the bank continue supporting sales of Boeing widebody jets to a limited number of airlines that lack alternative finance options, at least for as long as rival Airbus Group NV enjoys similar backing from European export-credit agencies.

"Delta's position in regard to the U.S. Export Import Bank hasn't changed. Delta has consistently said reforms are needed to stop U.S. taxpayer subsidized financing to our foreign competitors. The Bank should not be reauthorized without significant reforms," Hiroko Okada, a Delta spokeswoman, said in an email to Reuters.

There is a heightened scrutiny of the Ex-Im Bank as U.S. lawmakers debate whether to reauthorize the 80-year-old agency. The newly elected No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives said on Sunday he opposed renewing its charter.

Anderson is expected to emphasize in his speech that he doesn't want Ex-Im to shut down, arguing that the bank has a vital role in preserving U.S. manufacturing jobs, the daily reported.

The Export-Import Bank backed $37.4 billion in exports in 2013. Scrapping the bank would be a blow to Boeing, Caterpillar , General Electric and other U.S. companies that rely on Ex-Im financing to make sales in export markets where commercial lending is scarce. (Reporting by Supriya Kurane in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)