Analysis: AMR bankruptcy clouds Boeing jet order

Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:46pm EST
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By Tim Hepher

(Reuters) - Boeing (BA.N: Quote) could be at a disadvantage to Airbus because the bankruptcy of AMR Corp AMR.N, the parent of American Airlines, places up to $40 billion of jet orders at the mercy of a U.S. bankruptcy court, lawyers and bankruptcy experts said.

It faces a lengthy await for confirmation of a key order for 100 of its latest type of jet, a fuel-efficient version of its best-selling 737, hampering efforts to level the playing field with rival Airbus EAD.PA after a patchy 2011. AMR filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.

The planemakers are jostling to refresh their short-haul models with new engines in response to a clamor for fuel savings from airlines.

The Airbus project is about a year ahead of Boeing's and the European planemaker has won firm or provisional sales of 1,450 revamped A320neo aircraft, more than twice the 700 provisional agreements for the competing Boeing 737 MAX.

Blaming high costs, AMR, the third-largest U.S. airline, took cover from creditors just four months after bathing in glory with an order for 460 Airbus (EAD.N: Quote) and Boeing jetliners.

Airbus walked away with the majority of the sale and pushed its rival to change strategy by successfully wooing a gold-standard Boeing customer that had not bought European for years.

Boeing salvaged part of the deal by agreeing to match the Airbus "re-engining" strategy, rather than investing more time and money in a bolder redesign to try to leapfrog its rival.

But the change came too late to allow designers to finish plans and prices for the 737 MAX, forcing Boeing to settle for a draft deal which it has yet to translate into a binding order.   Continued...