Airbus faces record fourth-quarter delivery task to hit goal

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus AIR.PA shares rose on Tuesday as investors bet a 13.5% rise in nine-month deliveries put it within reach of a full-year goal despite factory snags, while the cancellation of five jets from struggling Norwegian Air took the edge off 41 new orders.

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Airbus is pictured at the aircraft builder's headquarters of Airbus in Colomiers near Toulouse, France, September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Monthly company data issued late on Monday left the European planemaker's deliveries and new orders well ahead of U.S. rival Boeing BA.N in a slow year for a commercial aerospace industry beset by negative headlines on safety and trade tensions.

Airbus AIR.PA is on track to outpace Boeing in annual deliveries for the first time since 2011, after its U.S. rival was forced to ground its fastest-selling plane, the 737 MAX, in March in the wake of two fatal accidents.

To reach a full-year goal of 880-890 deliveries, Airbus must break last year’s record of 297 handovers in the last quarter - a target Credit Suisse called “ambitious but achievable”.

Airbus delivered 571 jets in the first nine months of 2019.

Its shares rose up to 2.6% as investors reckoned the planemaker would repeat a previous pattern of successfully ramping up deliveries sharply in the final months of the year.

However, industry sources said the jetmaker faces continued challenges at a Hamburg plant responsible for the in-demand A320neo, where deliveries have been hit by a blend of production snags, supplier delays, staff shortages and quality problems.

“I don’t think the situation will completely turn around until next year,” a person familiar with the operation said.

Still, A321neo deliveries rose 57% in the first nine months after reaching a four-month high in September, data showed.

Some analysts warned a new 10% tariff planned by the United States on Airbus jets assembled in Europe due to a trade row over aircraft subsidies could have a disruptive impact.

New orders for 41 aircraft in September lifted Airbus to a nine-month total of 303 gross orders, or 127 net orders after cancellations including the 5 A320neo jets axed by Norwegian.


Industry sources said the budget carrier was negotiating to restructure future orders with both Airbus and Boeing, a move that could involve several deliveries being deferred.

Norwegian had no immediate comment on the partial A320neo cancellation, which cuts its total Airbus orders to 88 from 93.

Norwegian Air is Europe’s third-largest budget airline by passenger numbers after Ryanair RYA.I and easyJet EZJ.L and has shaken up the market with cut-price transatlantic fares. But its rapid expansion has left it with hefty losses and high debt.

Airbus posted new orders for 14 A220 and 10 A321neo planes to unnamed customers. Reuters reported last week it was close to a deal for around 12 A220 jets with Mexico’s Interjet.

New business included confirmation of 12 more orders for the A330neo - an upgraded version of the A330 wide-body that is in a fierce battle against the Boeing 787 - from Malaysia’s AirAsiaX.

The move is part of a fleet review that involves scaling back the airline’s earlier growth plans for the same model and switching focus to a long-range version of the A321neo.

Three buyers opted to convert a total of 22 A320neo jets to the larger A321neo, which has been scoring wins in a segment of the market Boeing had hoped to address with a new design before the MAX was grounded in March, Airbus data showed. Discussion of the new Boeing jet has slowed while the MAX crisis continues.

Boeing registered sales of 145 aircraft up to end-August, the latest period for which data is available, or a net total of 55 after ordinary cancellations and a negative total of 85 after adjustments to historic orders deemed unlikely to materialize.

Reporting by Tim Hepher and Laurence Frost in Paris, Terje Solsvik in Oslo; Editing by Matthew Lewis