Airbus has pulled out all the stops in its attempt to overtake Boeing for first place in their annual order contest, lining up several deals worth billions of dollars to end a difficult year that has been dominated by an upheaval in management and investigations into corruption.
Deals announced during the week include the confirmation of an order for 430 jets setting a new record that was brokered by Indigo Partners a private equity company based in the U.S. on behalf of four different airlines. However, analysts said that Airbus might have to give huge discounts to close the big gap it has with Boeing.
The recently announced Indigo deal and as many as 275 other small last minute deals are Airbus’ swan song to CEO John Leahy, who is scheduled to retire next month after close to tripling the market share of the airplane maker during his 23 years holding the reins.
Airbus endured what industry insiders have described as a painful last 12 months, falling behind Boeing as well as seeing sales teams become demoralized from the impact of French and UK probes into used of middlemen by a now disbanded unit.
Its stock price however is near a record high as the airplane manufacturer recovers from production problems of recent.
Seeking retirement on a high, the CEO is looking to sell at least the 700 airplanes it is expecting to deliver during 2017, after it revised its internal target higher from 400 earlier in the year, when the industry started to slow.
However, many observers believe that Leahy will go even further and try to equal the Boeing number that is reported to be sitting on 844 through December 19, and is believed to be close to the mark of 900 at this time.
Airbus had already announced deals that total 709 narrow body planes since the start of December, lifting its possible catch for 2017 to more than 1,000 prior to adjusting for any cancellations’
Its most recent deals include selling 100 planes to Delta, 50 each to China Aircraft Leasing and AerCap, and 75 to two other unnamed airlines.
Whether airbus is able to complete its surprise comeback will depend upon how many of its latest orders actually net additions to its order book.
Wizz Air in Hungary said its part of the big Indigo order that comprises 146 jets, needed approval of shareholders.