PARIS (Reuters) -Airbus lost a fifth of outstanding orders for its A330neo long-haul jet in March as the plane’s largest customer went through restructuring, but won sales elsewhere for more than 100 of its smaller jets, monthly data showed on Friday.
AirAsia X cancelled 63 of the A330-900 version of the A330neo, an upgrade of the long-established A330 wide-body model, as well as 10 smaller A321neo aircraft, Airbus said.
The European planemaker also said it had delivered 142 planes in the first quarter, up more than 13% on the year.
But the net number of deliveries stood at 140 after two for Aeroflot were cancelled due to sanctions on Russia.
Airbus had counted the two A350 deliveries for Aeroflot in its end-year tally in December as part of its forecast-beating annual deliveries, but the planes did not fly to Russia. Airbus has also cancelled the associated Aeroflot order, data showed.
“Airbus may seek new owners for these assets,” Jefferies analyst Chloe Lemarie said in a note.
Industry sources have said Airbus is trying to sell surplus A350s to Air India including three which it claims to have available as a result of a spat with Qatar Airways. The two sides are involved in a bitter court battle over the fate of A350s following the discovery of surface damage in the fleet.
The widely watched delivery totals confirm a range of 140-142 reported this week by Reuters, quoting sources – a higher number than some analysts had anticipated.
The announcement came as Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury told a German newspaper that Airbus is sticking to its goal of raising benchmark narrow-body production to 65 a month by summer 2023, and reaffirmed financial goals despite the war in Ukraine.
The A330neo is an upgrade of Airbus’ most-sold wide-body jet designed to compete with the Boeing 787 at a lower price.
It clocked up hundreds of orders only to face patchy demand as it was left heavily dependent on troubled AirAsia X.
Airbus has been gradually reducing the presence in its books of orders deemed unlikely to come to fruition while shifting attention to booming sales for the narrow-body A321neo.
“It is always a shock to see a large wide-body cancellation but these aircraft have probably not been counted in investors’ delivery forecasts for at least the past three years,” Agency Partners analyst Sash Tusa said.
“With the focus on strong demand for the A321neo, it is a good opportunity to take a look at the A330neo orders and clean up the backlog.”
In legal testimony on Thursday, Airbus minimised the benefits of its hot-selling A321neo compared to Boeing’s 737 MAX 10, in contrast with its own marketing pitch, but analysts described the move as a courtroom tactic in its widening legal dispute with Qatar Airways.
After Friday’s rejig of orders, Airbus has 200 undelivered A330neos in its order book versus 265 a month ago. These include 28 for Iran under a nuclear deal that collapsed in 2018, though Tehran is in talks with major powers aimed at reviving the deal.
Airbus said on Friday it had sold a total of 253 jets in the first quarter or a net total of 83 after cancellations. Rival Boeing will issue quarterly data next week.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, John Stonestreet and Bernard Orr)