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Originally published November 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 27, 2007 at 10:45 AM

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Is impact as big as Airbus order?

With Monday's order from China for 160 aircraft, Airbus has won three big contracts there in two years, compared with Boeing's one. The estimated $17 billion...

Bloomberg News

With Monday's order from China for 160 aircraft, Airbus has won three big contracts there in two years, compared with Boeing's one. The estimated $17 billion deal comes with orders already at an all-time high and is a boost as the European company works to end losses.

Some analysts questioned the bottom-line impact, though.

"These are very nice numbers, but you have to wonder what kind of pricing is involved," said Zafar Khan, an analyst at SG Securities in London with a "sell" rating on the stock. "Even if they were selling these planes at list price, given where the dollar is, are they able to make any real profit?"

Shares of EADS closed down 0.1 percent at 21.38 euros after earlier gaining 2.7 percent. The stock has declined 18 percent this year, compared with a 1.2 percent advance at Chicago-based Boeing. Boeing stock rose 39 cents to $89.93 Monday in New York Stock Exchange Composite trading.

Monday's plane order is the largest ever placed by China. The deal comprises 110 A320 short-haul planes and 50 A330 widebodies, said Louis Gallois, chief executive officer of Airbus parent company European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.

Airbus won a $10 billion deal for 150 aircraft there in November 2005, followed by another that size last year. Boeing's last big Chinese order was in 2005, worth as much as $9 billion.

Airbus and EADS executives are traveling with a trade delegation led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on a three-day visit to China. Airbus also Monday won an order for 12 of its new A350 long-haul jetliners from TAP SGPS SA, Portugal's biggest airline, worth $2.4 billion at list prices.

The European manufacturer is building an assembly line in China that will produce four single-aisle A320 planes a month when the line is at full production in about 2011.

The plane maker will also award Chinese companies 5 percent of the A350's supply contracts, including wing flaps and rudders, Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier said today. The company is hoping China will become a risk-sharing partner on the 300-seat aircraft, which has been redesigned to meet customer specifications and won't enter service until 2013, five years after the competing 787 Dreamliner from Boeing.

Boeing has supplier contracts with China's aviation industry valued at "well over" $2.5 billion, Boeing spokesman Peter Conte said in an e-mail today.

"Airbus has won large orders in China in each of the last three years, which suggests the risk of creating an assembly line there is paying off," said Yan Derocles, an analyst at Oddo Securities in Paris with an "add" rating on the shares.

Not necessarily, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va. While the portion of the order for A330 aircraft helps Airbus catch up to Boeing's lead in that segment of the market, each manufacturer is likely to end up with about half the total, he said.

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"I don't think either side has to worry," Aboulafia said. "Airbus just made the mistake of spending to manufacture there to get the same 50 percent of the market."

As of the third quarter, 647, or 58 percent, of the 1,113 commercial jetliners operating in China were Boeing airplanes; 357, or 32 percent, were Airbus; and 109, or 10 percent, were from other manufacturers, Boeing's Conte said.

Airbus' new orders this year will surpass the 1,111 amassed in 2005. The company had already won 1,021 new orders through the end of October and announced another 297 contracts or commitments at the Dubai Air Show in mid-November.

"The Chinese market is growing at by far the fastest pace in the world," Airbus executive Bregier said in an interview. "We hope to have more handsome orders like this."

Boeing's new orders this year have reached 1,047, setting a third straight annual record, the company said Nov. 21. Airbus' order tally is based on gross orders for the year and doesn't include orders that may have been canceled.

Boeing's gross orders are at 1,057, up from 1,050 last year, according to the Nov. 21 tally.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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