Airbus steals show with last-minute $14 billion Wizz deal

Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:54pm EDT
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By Victoria Bryan and Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) won the Paris Airshow with a last-minute $14 billion deal to sell 110 jets to Hungary's Wizz Air on Thursday, diverting attention from a growing industry debate over how quickly a record backlog of jet orders can be built.

The deal, sealed in an all-night negotiating session with ordered-in pizza, avoided a rare defeat for the France-based planemaker at its home arena and is expected to be followed by orders for dozens of A330 jets from China in weeks to come.

Wizz Air (WIZZ.L: Quote) CEO Jozsef Varadi made light of the marathon but is likely to have received a steep discount for his A321neo jets, after Boeing (BA.N: Quote) bid aggressively and Airbus appeared to be facing a disappointing end to a subdued week.

"I don't like these air shows, because every time I come I buy something," Varadi joked in front of beaming Airbus officials at a hurriedly arranged news conference.

Airbus ended the trade part of the June 15-21 show with orders and commitments for 421 aircraft worth $57 billion, against 331 aircraft worth $50.2 billion for Boeing.

In terms of firm orders, Boeing came out on top with 154 worth $20.2 billion, against 124 for Airbus worth $16.3 billion.

Although the competition had been running behind the scenes for some months, a Wizz Air deal was not expected to be ready in time for the show. "This was higher than I personally expected," Fabrice Bregier, chief executive of Airbus Group's planemaking division, said of the total orders.

Going into the show, Airbus had the lead over Boeing in plane orders, with 247 so far this year versus Boeing's 175. That had looked set to change at Le Bourget outside Paris as Boeing sold 100 jets to leasing company AerCap (AER.N: Quote).   Continued...

An Airbus A380, the world's largest jetliner, generates vortex during a flying display at the 51st Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol