© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Airbus A330neo aircraft performs during the inauguration of the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France, June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Pool
By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) -Airbus lost a fifth of outstanding orders for its A330neo long-haul jet in March as the plane’s largest customer went through restructuring, but it won sales elsewhere for more than 100 of its smaller jets, monthly data showed on Friday.
AirAsia X cancelled 63 of the A330-900 version of the A330neo, an upgrade of the long-established A330 wide-body model, as well as 10 smaller A321neo aircraft, Airbus said.
The European planemaker also said it had delivered 142 planes in the first quarter, up more than 13% on the year. But the net number of deliveries stood at 140 after two for Aeroflot were cancelled due to sanctions on Russia.
The widely watched delivery totals confirm a range reported this week by Reuters, quoting sources – higher than some analysts had anticipated.
The A330neo is a fuel-efficient version of Airbus’ most-sold wide-body jet to plug a gap below the A350 and compete with the Boeing (NYSE:) 787 Dreamliner at a lower price.
The plane benefited from an initial spree of orders only to face patchy demand as it was left heavily dependent on troubled Air Asia X.
Airbus has been gradually reducing the presence in its books of orders deemed unlikely to come to fruition while shifting attention to booming sales for the narrow-body A321neo.
“It is always a shock to see a large wide-body cancellation but these aircraft have probably not been counted in investors’ delivery forecasts for at least the past three years,” Agency Partners analyst Sash Tusa said.
“With the focus on strong demand for the A321neo, it is a good opportunity to take a look at the A330neo orders and clean up the backlog.”
In legal testimony on Thursday, Airbus minimised the benefits of its hot-selling A321neo compared to Boeing’s 737 MAX 10, in contrast with its own marketing pitch, but analysts described the move as a courtroom tactic in a fierce legal dispute with Qatar Airways.
After Friday’s rejig of orders, Airbus has 200 undelivered A330neos in its order book versus 265 a month ago. These include 28 for Iran under a nuclear deal that collapsed in 2018, though Tehran is in talks with major powers aimed at reviving the deal.
Airbus said on Friday it had sold a total of 253 jets in the first quarter or a net total of 83 after cancellations. Rival Boeing will issue quarterly data next week.