International

Boeing ups industry forecast as air show deals roll on

The Red Arrows, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, are joined by a Spitfire at the opening of the Farnborough Airshow, in Farnborough, Britain July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Farnborough, United Kingdom: Boeing raised its rolling 20-year industry forecast for passenger and cargo aircraft Tuesday, as a steady flow of deals on day two of the Farnborough Airshow underscored the industry’s resilience to rising global trade tensions. The world’s biggest plane-maker predicted 42,700 industry deliveries over the next two decades, up three percent from its estimate of 41,030 a year ago. That would be worth $6.3 trillion at list prices versus last year’s $6.1 trillion forecast. The U.S. group and European rival Airbus continued to rack up deals at the air show in southern England after a brisk opening day Monday.

Russian airline Volga Dnepr committed to buying Boeing freighters worth $11.8 billion at list prices, while U.S. leasing company Air Lease Corp committed to buying as many as 78 Boeing aircraft worth $9.6 billion.

In the meantime, Airbus bagged a provisional deal with an unidentified customer for 100 single-aisle A320 family jets, worth about $11.5 billion at list prices. But analysts cautioned many deals firmed up provisional ones, disclosed previously unidentified buyers, or changed existing orders, making it hard to gauge the level of demand.

Rising oil prices and interest rates, trade tensions and uncertainty over Britain’s departure from the European Union all pose a risk to an eight-year boom in civil aviation, which has boosted industry order books and share prices.

Boeing’s forecasts underscored the sector’s reliance on emerging markets in general and China in particular, making the U.S. plane-maker especially vulnerable should trade tensions between Washington and Beijing escalate into a full trade war.

Boeing, which calls itself America’s biggest exporter, delivered more than one out of every four jetliners it made last year to customers in China, one of the world’s fast-growing aircraft markets.

Boeing’s Vice President of Commercial Marketing Randy Tinseth told a news briefing China looked set to overtake the United States as the world’s biggest domestic air travel market in 10 to 15 years.

But he declined to be drawn into commenting on U.S. trade policy, saying: “We are going to focus on what we can control.”

Dominating Boeing’s upbeat outlook was a 5 percent increase in the forecast for single-aisle aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families, underpinned by an unchanged prediction for average global traffic growth of 4.7 percent.

The Chicago-based plane-maker now sees 31,360 deliveries in the medium-haul, single-aisle category, the cash cow of the world’s top two plane-makers and popular with low-cost airlines.

Two weeks ago, Airbus raised its own rolling forecast for industry deliveries by more than 7 percent and revamped the way it predicts demand, introducing new plane categories from “small” to “extra-large” and blurring the traditional boundaries between aircraft types.

Boeing’s Tinseth said Airbus sought to show it was winning a sizable share of the aircraft market.

“Let me make one thing clear,” Tinseth said. “By every measure, in every way, our wide-bodies are winning. Period.” Even so, Boeing lowered its wide-body delivery forecast by 140 aircraft to 8,070, saying higher deliveries over the last year and longer-range single-aisle planes ate into the rolling forecast.

Boeing saw a small increase in demand in the cargo market, a barometer of trade and business confidence, forecasting 980 new freighters from a projected 920 a year ago, fueled by the growth of e-commerce, particularly in China.

The plane-maker unveiled a volley of freight orders in the first two days of the Farnborough show.

Boeing’s overall forecast tally is a bigger number partly because it counts aircraft with 90 seats or more, whereas Airbus starts at 100 seats.

The smaller end of the aircraft market has seen its biggest shake-up in decades after Airbus closed a deal to buy Bombardier’s 110-130-seat CSeries jet, mirrored last week by Boeing’s tentative deal to acquire the commercial unit of Brazil’s Embraer SA. Boeing shaved its forecast for the regional jet fleet to 2,320 deliveries. Analysts expect Boeing and Airbus to use their scale to heap pressure on suppliers to lower costs, which could trigger consolidation.

With the industry giants moving onto its turf, Japan’s big hope for the regional jet market, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, was dealt a setback Tuesday when it had to cancel a demo flight after the jet was hit by a truck.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 18, 2018, on page 5.

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