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Airbus executive says considering cuts to A380 production, still undecided

By Jamie Freed

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Airbus SE <AIR.PA> is considering cutting production of its A380 superjumbo to six or seven planes a year, but has made no final decision on the matter, a top executive said on Thursday amid growing question marks over the future of the double-decker jet.

The A380 has battled against sluggish sales, squeezed by smaller, more efficient twin-engined jets. Airbus has previously announced plans to lower output to 12 aircraft in 2018 and eight in 2019, compared with an annual peak of 30.

"We believe we can produce this aircraft at 6-7 a year in an industrial way," Airbus Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier told Reuters after the first Singapore Airlines Ltd <SIAL.SI> A380 featuring a new cabin configuration landed in Singapore.

"It is a way to be able to go through I would say are low tide years... The A380 will find its way progressively."

The comments come ahead of a board meeting on Thursday where directors are seeking to contain damage from international fraud investigations over commercial and military sales, while getting a grip on what could become a chain reaction of departures, people familiar with the matter have said.

Bregier, who dismissed on Wednesday a report in France's La Tribune newspaper that he had agreed to leave Airbus in February next year, said on Thursday he hoped to remain at the firm.

"You can see I am quite relaxed about it," he said. "I don't need to be outside the door to listen to what will happen but I think they were clear that all of this buzz in the French press is probably a bit premature."

Festering animosity between Bregier, who is not a board member, and CEO Tom Enders boiled over earlier this year in a row over who should control the powerful jet sales department.

Analysts say ongoing negotiations over a deal with carrier Emirates will be decisive for the future of the A380.

Emirates, which held off signing an order for an estimated 36 aircraft at last month's Dubai Airshow, wants guarantees Airbus will produce the A380 for the next 10 years.

Reducing output to six a year would help to bridge that period and support key second-hand values while Airbus looks for other buyers, but could leave the program losing money for at least part of the period.

Following a clampdown on costs, Airbus has said the A380 can break even at production levels of 20 a year, while Bregier has previously said he is pushing the breakeven level as low as possible to sustain low production.

(This version of the story corrects paragraph 2 to read "eight in 2019" instead of "eight in 2018")

(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Edwina Gibbs)