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MENAFN - The Peninsula - 11/01/2017
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(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Toulouse, France:Airbus on Wednesday said it had outstripped its own delivery expectations in 2016, closing the gap with Boeing, and beat its US archrival on orders.

The European aerospace company said it delivered a record 688 commercial planes, beating its own target which was hiked in November from 650 to 670.

The figures were lifted by a last-minute surge in December when it handed over 111 aircraft.

It also booked a total of 731 net orders, beating Boeing but showing a significant drop of nearly a third on the previous year, when it logged demand for 1,036 aircraft.

Last week, Boeing confirmed orders of 668 planes throughout the year, down 13 percent on 2015 when net orders reached 768.

"2016 was a year in which we managed to not only achieve our objectives but to surpass them," said Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier.

It was the 14th consecutive year in which the firm chalked up record deliveries.

Although it remains behind Boeing, which saw deliveries fell modestly to 748 in 2016, the European group is closing the gap.

Delivery figures are of interest to analysts and investors as it is at that stage when manufacturers receive the bulk of payment.

- Supply chain issues -

"2016, particularly the first six months, was particularly difficult... we had more (production) difficulties than expected," Bregier said, referring to supply chain bottlenecks with its A350 long-haul jets.

But the company almost reached its delivery target for the aircraft, handing over 49 of the 50 planned deliveries, and two more submitted for flight testing.

It also delivered 545 of its single-aisle A320 jetliners, 66 A330s and 28 of its A380 double-decker superjumbos, the production of which is due to be halved next year.

In July, Airbus said it would cut the production rate of its A380 to one a month from 2018 to reflect reduced demand. In 2015, the manufacturer handed over 27 planes but next year aims to deliver just 12.

The group has seen a slowdown in demand for long-distance carriers due in part to falling fuel prices which have impacted on the renewal of ageing fleets, but also as a result of weakening demand from Gulf carriers which peaked in recent years.

Airbus ended the year with a backlog of 6,874 planes.

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