* Embraer may develop larger jet with more than 120 seats
* Sees demand for 875 regional jets in China over 20 years
* Shares up 2 percent despite posting 3rd-quarter loss
By Alberto Alerigi Jr.
SAO PAULO, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Brazil’s Embraer ERJ.N EMBR3.SA is considering whether to develop a slightly bigger commercial plane to target a market niche in between regional jets and the larger airliners made by Boeing Co. BA.N and Airbus EAD.PA, a company executive said on Tuesday.
Embraer, which was founded by Brazil’s air force in 1969 to make military training and patrol planes, is the world’s leading manufacturer of regional jets seating up to 120 passengers. In recent years it has also become a major producer of luxury business jets, one of the fastest growing aviation markets.
Now the company is toying with the idea of producing a larger plane that would thrust it into direct competition with the world’s top two aircraft manufacturers, U.S.-based Boeing and Europe’s Airbus.
“Whether we should develop a larger plane, alone or with partners, is something that we will have to decide,” Antonio Luiz Pizarro Manso, Embraer’s chief financial officer, said on a conference call.
“Right now, we think the market is well supplied by the existing models, the (Boeing) 737 and the (Airbus) A320,” he added. “So our strategy is to wait a bit, especially to see what kind of engine can be developed for such a project.”
Canada’s Bombardier Inc BBDb.TO, Embraer’s archrival in the regional jet market, is already developing a larger jet in the niche that the Brazilian company is eyeing. Bombardier’s CSeries plane will seat 110 to 130 passengers and hopes to poach business from the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families.
In a news conference in Sao Paulo on Monday, Airbus Chief Executive Thomas Enders said that the European manufacturer was open to developing a plane with Embraer in the future. Enders was scheduled to visit Embraer’s main factory in Sao Jose dos Campos on Tuesday.
Asked about a potential partnership with Airbus, Pizarro Manso said Embraer is always open to new ideas.
“We’re always engaged in talks, but there is nothing specific at the moment,” he said, adding that Airbus’s parent company, European aerospace group EADS, is already a partner in Embraer’s unit in Portugal.
Embraer has not received any order cancellations because of the global financial crisis, which has restricted the availability of credit and is slowing economic growth around the world.
But Pizarro Manso said that the lack of credit is likely to force some clients to request delays on delivery.
Embraer delivered 48 jets in the third quarter, compared with 47 in the year-earlier period and 52 in the second quarter of this year. On Monday, when Embraer reported a net loss of 48.4 million reais ($22.6 million) for the quarter, it reaffirmed its delivery forecast for 2008 of 195 to 200 jets.
In a separate statement on Tuesday, Embraer said it sees overall demand for 875 new regional jets in China over the next 20 years. Of that total, Embraer expects 120 of those planes will need to seat between 30 and 60 passengers, 295 in the 61- to 90-seat niche and 460 with between 91 and 120 seats.
Embraer, short for Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica, has a factory in China.
Embraer’s shares were up 2 percent at 11.1 reais in early afternoon trading in Sao Paulo despite the weak third-quarter earnings report. The benchmark Bovespa index .BVSP was up 4.13 percent.
Writing by Todd Benson, editing by Dave Zimmerman