Airbus versus Boeing: Iran deals the difference in plane battle

Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:53pm EST
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By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - Over the past two decades, planemakers Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) and Boeing (BA.N: Quote) have traded the crown in the annual orders race, and it was usually clear who had bragging rights in the fiercely competitive $120 billion annual jet market.

On Wednesday, Airbus retained the top spot when it said it had recorded a total of 731 net orders for 2016, beating Boeing's tally of 668 for the year released a week ago.

Standing out as the unusual kingmaker between the two Western giants is Iran, emerging from decades of sanctions to place billions of dollars of new orders. Because of fragile demand elsewhere, its comeback carries unusual weight.

While Airbus included all but two of the 100 aircraft it sold to Iran last year, its American arch-rival did not include the 80 aircraft it sold to the country.

It is unclear why Airbus formally reported Iranian orders while Boeing did not, and what criteria were used by each company in making their decisions.

Airbus is further ahead in the sales process; Iran took delivery of its first Airbus jet on Wednesday, while Boeing's planes will be delivered from 2018.

Neither planemaker gave any immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

A source close to Boeing said there was some bemusement at the U.S. planemaker as to why Airbus was able to book all of their Iranian orders. Airbus sources, who declined to be named, said the company's year-end numbers had been strictly audited.   Continued...

An Airbus A321 airliner arrives at the Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran, Iran January 12, 2017.   Tasnim News Agency/Handout via REUTERS