Airbus to beat 2011 MENA forecasts

Reuters , Wednesday 24 Aug 2011

Airbus, expecting orders for 90 planes, will end the year with a 'triple-digit order book', says the planemaker's Middle East head

Planemaker Airbus will exceed its forecast for orders from the Middle East and North Africa this year, helped by deals to be finalised at the Dubai Air Show in November, a senior executive said.

Airbus, which had expected orders for 90 planes, will end the year with a "triple-digit order book", said Habib Fekih, the European planemaker's president for Middle East.

Qatar Airways may be one of the airlines to place orders at the Dubai Air Show, Fekih told Reuters in an interview.

"Discussions with Qatar Airways are underway and it is a continuous process. Yes, they could announce something.... a small number of aircraft here or there," he said.

The Doha-based carrier had been expected to buy five A380s and 50 A320neo narrowbody airplanes at the Paris Air Show in June, but instead ordered six aircraft from U.S. competitor Boeing.

Fekih said the company was currently not in discussions with other regional carriers like Emirates and Eithad Airways.

Airlines in the Middle East account for about 9.5 per cent of Airbus's orders, making it a key market for the plane maker. The region, which has some of the youngest fleet in the world, represents 15 per cent of the firm's backlog.

The Europe debt crisis and the faltering U.S economy have held back global clients struggling to get loans for payment, said Fekih, but said the impact was limited.

"Maybe some alliance could have immediate difficulty during the coming weeks or months to have access to loans...but this will be very limited," he said, adding that this has not had much impact in the MENA region.

Political turmoil in the MENA region and rising fuel costs hit the buying capacity of Middle East carriers.

"The recent uprising in the Arab world has caused some traffic slowdown. We had rescheduling of some deliveries but the rest of the region is experiencing very healthy growth."

Airbus' sales chief John Leahy said earlier this month that he expected aircraft production to be flat or slightly higher in the event of another global economic downturn.

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