Andrew Doyle/SINGAPORE

Airbus is intensifying its efforts to persuade Japanese industry to take up the offer of an 8% risk-sharing stake in the A380. The move could form a key part of its strategy to break Boeing's dominance of Japan's air transport sector.

Boeing has reacted by raising concerns that its Japanese industrial partners risk infringing agreements governing their participation in its own widebody aircraft programmes if they invest in the European ultra-large airliner.

Mitsubishi (MHI), Kawasaki (KHI) and Fuji Heavy Industries have been given a June deadline for a decision on participating in the A380 as talks begun at the end of last year "have not come to fruition up to now", says Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard. Speaking in Tokyo on 21 May, Forgeard urged the Japanese firms to "diversify their business relationships".

Failure to secure a Japanese stake would be a blow for Airbus. It has so far been unable to name a single partner taking a sizeable portion of the 30% the European airframer has said it wanted to commit to risk-sharing. So far the only risk-sharing partners to declare their hand have been second tier manufacturers. Last year Airbus shareholder EADS ruled out a major US partner.

Meanwhile, Boeing claims that the Japanese companies could compromise agreements governing the stakes they hold in the 747, 767 and 777 programmes if they opt to risk-share on the A380. The agreements are believed to include clauses aimed at discouraging them from investing in Airbus products that compete with those of Boeing.

However the A380, as a 550-seater in its basic version, will occupy a new market segment which Boeing no longer plans to contest after its decision to shelve the 747X. "There is some flexibility in what they are able to do but it's a judgement call," says Boeing.

The Japanese press is speculating that MHI has decided not to risk-share, and will take A380 subcontract work instead. KHI and Fuji would follow due to "doubts over the project's viability", according to the Japan Industrial Journal.

"We are talking at two different levels. One is as risk and revenue sharing partners, but they can still join the A380 programme as subcontractors," says Airbus. Some Airbus subcontract work on other programmes has already been allocated to Japan.

Boeing chief Phil Condit, in Tokyo the day after Forgeard's speech, said he was confident that Japanese industry would partner the manufacturer in the development of its proposed Sonic Cruiser.

Source: Flight International