Boeing Poised to Reclaim Jet-Maker Crown Lost to Airbus

Boeing Poised to Reclaim Jet-Maker Crown Lost to Airbus in 2003
A Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner awaits final details to be completed before delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) at the company's facility in Everett, Washington. Photographer: Stuart Isett/Bloomberg

Boeing Co. is poised to retake the global lead in jetliner deliveries for the first time in a decade, after delivering almost two dozen more jets through November than Airbus SAS, its larger rival.

Boeing delivered 51 airliners to customers last month, according to its monthly website update today. That brings the total this year through November to 537 and compares with Airbus’s 516 deliveries.

“Boeing will go through a window over the next few years where they’re going to produce significantly more airplanes than Airbus, and that really is reflecting the 787 production,” Peter Arment, of Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc., said in an interview. Airbus’s rival to the 787, the A350, “won’t enter the market really in any material way until the middle of the decade.”

The 787 was more than three years late when it entered service last year after Boeing struggled with the plane’s new composite materials and production system. Boeing has increased production of the plane this year and has said it’s on track to reach its goal of building 10 a month by the end of 2013. It’s also boosting output of its other jets that will give a planned 60 percent surge in production in four years through 2014.

New Deliveries

Boeing delivered five 787s in November, which means it has now achieved the low end of its target for deliveries of 35 to 42 of the planes this year.

The length of time it’s taking to deliver the new Dreamliners is dropping, according to Arment and David Strauss with UBS AG. Strauss estimates it took nine months on average for the November 787 deliveries to reach customers after rolling off the production line, a narrower window than the 10-month average delivery time he says it took for the total of 38 jets so far delivered since September 2011.

Deliveries are important because that’s when Boeing gets about 40 percent of the purchase price of a jet. Toulouse, France-based Airbus had surpassed the Chicago-based planemaker on deliveries every year since 2003.

A change in delivery ranking won’t reflect any big market-share shift as orders show that the customer base has stayed relatively stable between the two planemakers, Arment said.

Upgraded Jet

Boeing won 1,052 net orders through November, minus cancellations, beating Airbus’s 585. Figures were reversed last year, when Airbus won a record 1,419 orders compared to Boeing’s 805, after the European company began selling an upgraded version of its A320 single-aisle jet at the end of 2010. Boeing didn’t follow suit with improvements on its rival 737 until late 2011, which accounted for most of this year’s purchases.

Boeing has projected it will deliver 585 to 600 aircraft this year, while Airbus predicted 570. Last year, Airbus delivered 534 aircraft, more than Boeing’s 477.

“It’s been a year of execution,” Arment said yesterday of Boeing. “They have hit milestones, and it’s time to keep the momentum going.”

Boeing’s stock had gained less than 1 percent this year through yesterday. That compares with a 13 percent gain in shares of Airbus parent European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. Boeing fell 0.7 percent to $73.38 at 12:23 p.m. in New York.

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