Airbus logs record year as anonymous buyers surge
Airbus posted an industry record of 1,619 new airplane orders in 2013, pushing its backlog to almost nine years of production, and said it was examining the potential for a two-stage increase in production of its most popular jets.
The European planemaker reclaimed top spot in commercial orders from Boeing after repeatedly revising up its targets last year, but lost the delivery contest to its rival despite an internal record of 626 deliveries.
After adjusting for cancellations, Airbus total net orders rose 80pc from the previous year to 1,503 aircraft.
Boeing closed the year with 1,531 gross orders, 1,355 net orders and a record total of 648 deliveries. It remained the world's largest planemaker but lost the race for orders.
Airbus said it ended 2013 with an industry-wide record backlog of 5,559 aircraft worth $809bn (€592bn) at list prices. Boeing's backlog stood at 5,080.
Buoyed by growth in emerging markets and the replacement of old fleets in the US, planemakers have been riding out the recession with ample orders, but are now shifting their attention towards producing the jets that they have sold.
Included in Airbus's end-year figures was an order for 100 smaller jets from an unidentified customer. That mirrors a recent surge of anonymous orders at Boeing, which sources say reflects busy activity in China, despite its economic slowdown.
"We cannot continue at this level (of orders), but what we are doing is continuing to increase production," said Airbus sales chief John Leahy.
Airbus produces 42 medium-haul A320 jets a month and Boeing recently announced plans to leapfrog its European rival by hiking Boeing 737 output from 38 a month to 47 by 2017. Airbus said it saw enough demand in the market to increase production of the new A320neo model, once it has completed a transition to 42 a month in 2018.
"We still have some homework but we believe there is some potential to go higher than rate 42; there is an upside and we are studying it for the (A320)ceo," Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier said.
"Then when we have moved to the (A320)neo we know that we will ramp up again. Whatever we do or don't do now, we know that we will ramp up again. We will go higher than rate 42 (per month) in 2018, 2019 and following years."
He did not say what production rate could be chosen or when it could be announced. Suppliers say they are being encouraged to think ahead to production rates as high as 52 per month.
Airbus has been hinting at possible production increases in recent months but Mr Bregier's comments give the strongest indication yet that it stands ready to fire up output of the A320. (Reuters)