Boeing says well-placed in wake of Airbus revamp plan

FARNBOROUGH England Mon Jul 14, 2014 8:58am EDT

The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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FARNBOROUGH England (Reuters) - U.S. planemaker Boeing (BA.N) said its range of aircraft meant it was well-placed to compete in the latest stage of a long-haul battle against European rival Airbus (AIR.PA), which earlier stole the limelight with a plan to revamp its A330 jet.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Ray Conner said he was "looking forward" to the heightened contest when asked about Airbus's revamp plan on the opening day of the Farnborough Airshow on Monday.

"We are very comfortable with our product line in terms of efficiency and in terms of value we bring to the market place," Conner said at a press conference. "I feel comfortable that we have the right machine in every single market segment."

Airbus kicked off the Farnborough Airshow with confirmation it would sell revamped versions of its A330 wide-body jet powered by Rolls-Royce (RR.L) Trent 7000 engines and offering 14 percent fuel savings.

The revamp looks set to intensify the contest between the two planemakers for up to $250 billion of orders at the core of the long-haul jet market.

The upgraded A330, called an A330neo, is Airbus's attempt to prolong the life of its profitable twin-aisle jet, as the European company tries to preserve market share against Boeing's much newer 787 Dreamliner.

Analysts said Airbus's revamp plan followed poor sales of its A350-800 - the minnow of the next-generation A350 family - whose development looks set to be halted or suspended as a result.

"I congratulate them on making that decision, on moving away from the A350-800 which is, what, they essentially, I guess are doing, and going back to the kind of re-engine scenario that they had in 2004, but there's no way their plane is much better than ours," Conner said.

Both Boeing and Airbus have clashed over the weight and efficiency of their jets in the 250- to 300-seat segment of the jetliner market.

Conner championed the efficiency of Boeing's 787 family of aircraft, saying that higher performance meant the contest was not just about purchase price, as he defended Boeing's offering against the cheaper A330neo.

"I don't really care what is said, this is really the most efficient airplane family around," he said of the 787 group of aircraft.

Air Lease Corp, which on Monday became the launch customer for the A330neo, said the only way Boeing could respond was by making 787-9 production costs more efficient, and delivering more flexibility to the operators that do not require all of the payload range capability of the 787-9.

"I don't believe they can close the pricing gap because the A330 is a mature program, most of the development costs have already been absorbed and it's a relatively minor step up compared to building a new airplane," Air Lease Chairman and Chief Executive Steven Udvar-Hazy said at the show.

Boeing's Conner also said that the company expected demand for cargo aircraft to pick up as he gave an upbeat assessment of future demand for planes.

Boeing, Conner added, is in talks with Dubai's Emirates carrier regarding its 747-8 aircraft.

"We're still in discussions with Emirates today. That's going to go on for a while I'm sure so I can't say that we're close, I can't say that we're far away. We're still working at it," he said.

Emirates said in June it was not interested in the 467-seat 747-8, despite a report of talks between Boeing and the airline.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Mark Potter)

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