BOEING shares fell to their lowest level in two months yesterday as the crisis enveloping its 787 Dreamliner deepened. Regulators around the world grounded the aircraft until problems with it were resolved.
"I honestly wish all the best to my colleagues at Boeing to get this aircraft back into service, because an aircraft is designed to fly," Airbus's chief executive Fabrice Bregier told a news conference on the EADS subsidiary's sales.
The world's dominant planemakers compete aggressively for a roughly equal share of the $100bn civil jet market, though their fortunes have see-sawed in the past two years as first Airbus then Boeing racked up orders for fuel-saving models.
Airbus executives defended the use of lithium-ion batteries on the company's A350 passenger jet which is currently in development, saying its rival to the Dreamliner is designed differently.
Airbus said it remained confident of achieving the maiden flight of its A350 carbon-composite airliner by mid-year, despite problems with some suppliers including Spain's Alestis and fuselage parts maker Spirit Aero Systems of Kansas.
EADS's shares were up 4 pc at €33.79, the second-biggest gainer in France's blue-chip CAC 40 index. The stock has gained around 14pc this month after adding 22pc last year.
Airbus said it had booked 914 gross orders during 2012.
as Boeing caught up with demand for revamped medium-haul jets, selling exactly the same volume for one model alone.
Airbus had won the previous year's order race by a record margin and had been expected to draw a sharp response as the planemakers waged a two-year contest to win orders by offering airlines significant fuel savings over earlier models.
Adjusted for cancellations, Airbus had 833 net orders.
Gross orders stood well ahead of the company's 2012 target of 650 jets but compared with Boeing's comparable figure of 1,339 new aircraft, giving Airbus a market share of 41 percent.
Boeing led on net orders with 1,203 aircraft.
"What goes up eventually comes back down," said Airbus sales chief John Leahy, adding that Airbus had won 52 percent of the market over a two-year period.
In remarks likely to inflame competition with Boeing in the largest segment of the market, Leahy said Airbus aimed to keep "up to 60 percent" of overall orders for the latest revamped medium-haul planes, the A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX.
Boeing has signalled it draws the line closer to 50 percent.
The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) announced late on Wednesday it had ordered US carriers to stop using the 787, and other jurisdictions followed yesterday. The Japanese carriers, JAL and All Nippon, had already withdrawn the craft from service.
The Dreamliner, seen as a revolutionary plane because of its carbon-fibre fuselage and extensive use of electricity, which makes it much cheaper to run than comparable aircraft, has been hit by a rash of problems in the past week, culminating in an All Nippon Airways jet having to make an emergency landing amid fears of a battery fire.
"While it is entirely possible that the current battery issue is resolved soon, it is also equally possible that the 787's current certification could be called into question," said BB&T Capital Markets analyst Carter Leake.
The FAA's decision to ground the craft was its first such action since the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 had its airworthiness certificate suspended following a deadly crash in Chicago in 1979.
Boeing has sold about 850 of its new planes, with 50 delivered to date. The firm said it was confident the 787 was safe and it stood by the plane's integrity. (Additional reporting by Reuters)