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Business

Airbus decrees recession 'definitively over' after positive air show

European aerospace giant Airbus did a roaring trade at the Farnborough International Airshow in Britain this week, including landing a major deal with Virgin Airlines.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner on its maiden voyage.

Boeing flew in its 787, but Airbus landed more sales

The Franco-German company Airbus was positively bullish after selling 130 planes and securing pledges for the future purchase of a further 122 at the Farnborough International Airshow this week.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the recession is definitively over," company sales chief Tom Leahy told a news conference. "Liquidity is back in the market, traffic is back in the market and GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth is back."

Leahy said he was delighted to have won a personal wager with the chief executive of parent company EADS, Louis Gallois, having bet that Airbus would double its year-to-date sales at the airshow. The company has revised its sales estimates for 2010 upwards, now saying it expects to sell "north of 400" planes.

Perhaps the highest profile contract was with Virgin Atlantic, selling 40 Airbus A320 jets to Virgin America with the option to add another 20, in a deal worth at least 2.3 billion euros ($3 billion).

"I am happy to celebrate my 60th birthday this week," Virgin founder Richard Branson said. "And I can't think of a better present than getting 60 new planes."

Airbus says the deals it has either sealed or set up at the British air show will eventually be worth almost 22 billion euros, and the company is considering further increases in production of its smaller, single-aisle A320 family to cope with rising demand.

A Lufthansa Airbus A380 superjumbo in flight.

Airbus' A380 is the new flagship, but not the cash cow

"This was a good airshow for us and I think it was a good airshow for the aviation industry," Airbus chief executive Thomas Enders said on Thursday, after the last major day for doing business at the Farnborough show, which remains open to the public until Sunday.

Gains across the industry

Airbus's strong sales were a welcome boon at Farnborough, especially after the company's US rival Boeing flew in its new 787 Dreamliner for its debut appearance outside the States. The 787 is Boeing's answer to the Airbus A380 superjumbo, and although it has a lower seating capacity and shorter range, many analysts predict its comparatively modest size could make it more saleable than Airbus' record-breaking passenger jet.

Boeing has reported 103 new orders worth roughly eight billion euros at the trade fair, saying this performance points to a "continued recovery" for the industry.

Aviation mogul Steve Udvar-Hazy - a pioneer of the aircraft leasing business in the 1970s - also made a big-spending return in Farnborough, ordering 100 Airbus and Boeing jets for his new business, Air Lease Corp, triggering more orders from rival leasing companies.

Airline shares have responded positively to the performance, although the apparent spike in sales is still being fuelled by emerging markets, with airlines in Europe and North America relatively cautious.

Sales at the biennial Farnborough trade fair may not have approached the record levels of 2008, when almost 70 billion euros changed hands, but they're still a massive improvement on 2009's post-financial crisis sister air show at Le Bourget, near Paris, when sales totaled a meager 5.4 billion euros.

Author: Mark Hallam (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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