Analysis: Airbus and Boeing sales struggle continues through third quarter

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Airbus and Boeing continue to suffer extremely difficult trading conditions, with their combined third-quarter net orders amounting to just 134 aircraft. Meanwhile, output reached a new nine-month high, breaking through 700 units.

Boeing had the stronger three months, accruing 79 net orders against its rival's 55. However, the airframers' performances were well short of the period last year, when they sold just shy of 400 aircraft between them - and the downturn was already beginning to bite at that point.

Total net orders during the first nine months stand at 203 (330 gross), compared with 1,360 at the same point last year. While Boeing has beaten Airbus in gross orders (181 versus 149), a high cancellation rate (101) has relegated it far behind its rival in net terms (80 versus 123).

But Airbus still has a lot to do if it is to achieve its target of 300 (gross) orders by year-end, although there are some Paris air show deals to firm up that are expected to help bolster its backlog as the year closes.

The single-aisle products have propped up sales this year, with the A320 and 737 accounting for more than 220 orders between them - the Boeing type is slightly ahead at the nine-month point.

Widebody sales have been particularly slow, with the A330 topping the table on 18. The big loser in 2009 has been the 787, which was at minus 60 net orders to the end of September and has dropped another 10 units in the first weeks of October. Significantly, all 22 777 orders (16 net) placedthis year have been exclusively for the new-generation -200LR/300ER with sales of the Classic now at a standstill.

The two airframers have matched each other in output as it hits a record 717 units for the first nine months, each completing just shy of 360 deliveries. The total is up 6% on the 674 delivered in the same period last year (which included a strike-affected month for Boeing), and puts the two protagonists on course for the record of around 960 forecast for the full year.

Airbus was slightly behind Boeing in single-aisle output in the third quarter, but was ahead for the nine-month total. Among the deliveries were the 4,000th A320 family aircraft (an A319 for TAM) and the 3,000th Next Generation 737.

Airbus has only managed to deliver six A380s during the first six months, leaving itself with the challenge of having to hand over seven between now and the end of the year if it is to achieve its 2009 target of 13 shipments.

Boeing was ahead on widebody deliveries, with the 777 setting the benchmark at 63 units, but just four of these were Classics.

The combined backlog stands at just over 6,900 aircraft, with the split remaining roughly 50/50.