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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 17, 2002

Three Asian carriers may buy Airbus A380 planes

By Sonia Tsang
Bloomberg News Service

CEBU, Philippines — Airbus SAS may sell as many as 30 A380 aircraft to three airlines in Asia, said the chief commercial officer. The orders would be worth $7.2 billion based on the list price for each 550-seat, double-decker plane.

"Each one of these orders would probably be in the neighborhood of between five and 10 aircraft," John Leahy said in an interview at an Association of Asia Pacific Airlines' conference. Airbus is in "detailed discussions," he said, declining to name the potential customers for the aircraft.

Toulouse, France-based Airbus is building the A380 to challenge Chicago-based Boeing Co.'s 747 in the market for planes seating more than 400 people. Airbus has 97 firm orders for the new aircraft and about the same number of options, Leahy said.

In Asia, Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Qantas Airways Ltd. have ordered the A380, which is scheduled to enter service in 2006. Potential contracts in Asia may come from Japan Airlines System Corp., All Nippon Airways Co., Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways and Korean Air Co., analysts said.

About one-quarter of Airbus' total plane sales over the next 20 years will be A380 aircraft, based on dollar value, Leahy said at the conference in Cebu, Philippines.

Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Officer David Turnbull said that the Hong Kong-based carrier is looking for a bigger plane rather than a faster aircraft, referring to the choice between the A380 and Boeing's planned Sonic Cruiser. Turnbull said in August the carrier will probably decide whether to buy the A380 in six to eight months.

Korean Air also said in August that it was weighing buying the plane. The airline may not decide until as late as 2005 after it completes a fleet renewal program.

Japan Airlines System, the carrier formed by the merger of Japan Airlines Co. and Japan Air System Co., said last month it will only decide once it sees how competitors use the plane.

Leahy didn't indicate whether discussions with any of the Asian carriers involved the freighter version. Airbus has said in the past that it expected Asian interest in that model.

FedEx Corp., the largest over-night-delivery service, is so far the only customer for a cargo-carrying model, signing a purchase contract in July for 10 of the planes.

Airbus Chief Executive Noel Forgeard has said he expects to add one new customer for the A380 a year from 2003 through 2006, when the airplane enters Singapore Airlines' fleet.

Airbus expects to deliver a total 300 airliners this year, compared with a target of between 400 and 450 before the Sept. 11 attacks.