July 9, 2014 / 6:40 PM / 3 years ago

Airbus pushes for A330neo launch buyers ahead of show

PARIS, July 9 (Reuters) - Airbus is sprinting to line up preliminary orders for a revamped version of its A330 jet and is on stand-by to make an announcement as early as next week’s Farnborough Airshow, but no decision has been taken, people familiar with the matter said.

The keenly awaited launch of the so-called A330neo hinges on the response of airlines and lessors being courted just days before the July 14-20 event, but the chances have improved of securing at least two buyers, the people said.

Airbus Group’s board has not so far given official authorisation to start marketing the plane, but is ready to give a green light if commitments are secured for an initial order batch that some estimate between 50 and 100 aircraft.

Publicly, Airbus this week played down the prospect of an immediate launch in what was partly seen as an effort to insure itself against perceptions of a flop if no announcement came.

Additionally, the project poses complex internal issues of production and strategy, including a virtually certain decision to halt or slow development of the newer but poor-selling A350-800.

Behind the scenes, however, efforts have accelerated to line up orders for an announcement that could be the main feature of the civil side of the world’s largest air show. As a backstop, the Airbus board could discuss the matter on the eve of its July 30 half-yearly results.

Possible clients include Delta Air Lines, which is shopping for as many as 50 jets, and AirAsia, which has pushed for an A330 upgrade, as well as lessors that have expressed support such as CIT and Air Lease Corp.

Reuters reported in June that Airbus was poised to launch the A330neo with Rolls-Royce as sole engine supplier, subject to approval from the Franco-German company’s board.

The aircraft will be offered in two versions equivalent to the two existing 253-seat and 295-seat models and offer 14-15 percent greater efficiency than the existing model.

Airbus said this week the chances were increasing that it would update its most popular wide-body jet, but would not necessarily do so at the closely watched Farnborough Airshow.

The company declined further comment on Wednesday. (Reporting by Tim Hepher, editing by David Evans)

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