Airbus: Buyers keeping low profile amid trade spat

FARNBOROUGH, England–Airbus SE (AIR.FR) is announcing an unusually high number of orders from undisclosed buyers because customers are concerned about global trade tensions, the European aerospace giant’s Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schulz said Wednesday.

Customers have asked to remain unnamed in order to not "fuel the fire" on trade, Mr. Schulz said. That anxiety is particularly pronounced in Asia, he told investors.

Airbus kicked off the third day of this week’s Farnborough International Air Show with the announcement of a deal for six A330-900 widebody planes from an undisclosed customer. More than half of the company’s Farnborough order announcements so far are from buyers which aren’t publicly identified.

Aerospace companies are gathered at Farnborough amid heightened trade tensions between the U.S. and China, as well as among Washington and a number of the U.S.’s traditionally close trading allies, including the European Union, Mexico and Canada. Industry officials said they are not, yet, seeing an impact on demand for travel or planes, but are watching anxiously the trade tension which could dent demand.

Mr. Schulz said he expected to end Farnborough International Air Show with around 750 aircraft deals. Strong demand, particularly for single-aisle planes, could allow Airbus to charge more, Mr. Schulz said.

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders said Wednesday that the company faced "a hell of a race" to meet its target of delivering around 800 jetliners this year, after supplier bottlenecks caused handovers to lag in the first six months.

Mr. Enders told investors that the company was seeing encouraging signs that deliveries were stepping up, with 80 plane deliveries last month. In the first six months, the company delivered only 303 jetliners against a full-year target of 800.

Airbus this year had more than 100 planes built ready for delivery but for absent engines. "We are now trying to equip all these aircraft with engines and get them off the tarmac," Mr. Enders said. "The engine makers are catching up," he said.

Airbus single-aisle planes, those most affected by delays, are powered either by engines from CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric Co. GE, -1.51% and SAFRAN SA (SAF.FR), and Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp. UTX, +1.34%

Mr. Schulz also said he was targeting orders for more A380 superjumbos this year.

Airbus has had to cut production plans for the A380 to about six planes a year in 2020 because of slack demand. Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm said the program would lose money at that output level, but that efforts to cut costs to produce the plane would continue.

Write to Robert Wall at [email protected]

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