PARIS (Reuters) - Europe's Airbus AIR.PA booked 72 jet deliveries in October, approaching last year's monthly pace for the first time since the start of the coronavirus crisis and easing concerns over a cash-depleting overhang of unwanted jets.
It said Jan-Oct deliveries reached 413 aircraft, down 36% from a year earlier. However, October deliveries were down just 6.5% from 77 in the same month of 2019.
Airbus sold 11 jets last month, mainly to private jet operators amid a slump in airline demand, and received another three A220 cancellations from Australia's Macquarie MQG.AX.
So far this year Airbus has sold 381 jets, or 308 after cancellations, outstripping Boeing BA.N in orders and deliveries as the U.S. planemaker's 737 MAX remains grounded by a 19-month-old safety ban, expected to be lifted this month.
Airbus issued the update after reaffirming plans internally to reach cash breakeven in the last quarter, boosted by deliveries of the narrow-body A320neo family, while expressing worries over the market for wide-body jets.
Still, Airbus handed over 10 more wide-bodies than it produced last month, further denting a surplus of 135 jets of all types that it has been unable to deliver during the crisis.
It handed over 43 single-aisle planes and 12 smaller A220s, suggesting a total potential inventory drawdown of 21 aircraft.
Deliveries should further ease cash concerns, though October appeared an unusual month, Jefferies analyst Sandy Morris said.
Most A220s went to Delta Air Lines DAL.N, while the U.S. carrier is said to be reluctant to take larger A330neos, which are affected by a transatlantic trade dispute.
Deliveries - brought to a near-halt in April by the pandemic - have rebounded as Airbus reshuffles hundreds of aircraft, supported by storage deals with airlines unable to put them into service.
The proportion of deliveries to Chinese airlines remains below pre-crisis levels, however.
Analysts say 2021 deliveries depend on the timing of any COVID-19 vaccine, the availability of cash and funding for airlines and the ability of carriers to survive the winter low-season after a summer deprived of usual tourist demand.
Airbus expects demand to return to pre-crisis levels between 2023 and 2025, but has told its supply chain to be ready to raise A320neo-family production by 18% to 47 a month in the second half of 2021 as those jets spearhead any recovery.
With parts of Europe back in lockdown, some suppliers have cautioned that production may not recover that quickly.
Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Louise Heavens, Alexander Smith and Diane Craft
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