* Morgan Stanley predicts 500-1,000 A320neo sales by June
* Airbus says figure overly optimistic
* Adds expects to sell several hundred over same period
(Adds Udvar-Hazy comments, background)
TOULOUSE, France, Jan 28 Airbus said it was in
preliminary talks with leasing magnate Steven Udvar-Hazy over
its A320neo passenger jet, but moved to quash a forecast of up
to 1,000 short-term sales of the revamped model.
Hazy, considered a pioneer after co-founding what become the
world's largest aircraft leasing firm in 1973, has expressed
doubts about Airbus's plan to revamp its best-selling A320 model
with new engines from 2016.
Hazy, and Airbus sales chief John Leahy, were sharing a
podium on Friday as the former took delivery of his first Airbus
plane since relaunching his career with a new leasing company,
Air Lease Corp, last year.
The sleek black-painted passenger jet, decorated in honour
of New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team, was delivered to its
operator Air New Zealand (AIR.NZ) at Airbus headquarters.
"We did take a little bit of time this morning to have a few
discussions with Steve and his team about the neo but you have
to remember they have just placed an order for 51 aircraft,"
"I don't know if they will look at the neo this week, but I
am sure they will be looking at it (some time)."
Hazy sold his original company, International Lease Finance
Corp, to insurer AIG (AIG.N) for $1.3 billion in 1990, while
staying on to run the business.
Last year he stepped down in an apparent dispute over the
way ILFC was being financed in the wake of a U.S. government
bailout of AIG, and launched Air Lease Corp at the Farnborough
air show with orders for 100 planes, including 51 from Airbus.
As chief of ILFC, Hazy was considered so successful he could
tell Airbus and Boeing how to build their planes, and he remains
an influential figure in the aviation industry. An order from
him would be considered a boost for the neo.
On Friday, Hazy stressed the advantages of the current
model, the one he has leased to Air New Zealand.
"The A320 has been a wonderful performer... a cost-effective
airplane and a real workhorse. So this is chapter two for us,"
Though Hazy declined to confirm publicly whether he would
order the revamped model, which costs about $6 million more than
the basic A320, he told Reuters before the event that he was
reluctant despite Airbus' promise the neo will boast 15 percent
better fuel burn when it is ready in 2016.
"It is not just the fuel burn, you have to look at
maintenance costs, capital costs, spare parts," he said.
"There are a lot of other costs associated with introducing
a different version of the A320 so (we) are not 100 percent
aligned on this issue."
Leahy is upbeat on orders for the A320neo but was forced to
dampen expectations after an analyst was quoted as predicting as
many as 1,000 sales by June, outstripping his own target.
Morgan Stanley was quoted on Thursday as estimating that the
European planemaker would sell 500-1,000 A320s by the Paris air
show in June.
Leahy called the figure "overly optimistic" and reiterated
he expected to sell "several hundred" over the same period.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by James Regan and David