Airbus still expects to deliver first A380 superjumbos by year end

PARIS (XFNews) - Airbus still expects to begin deliveries of its new A380 superjumbo plane to customers before the end of this year, despite production delays that have forced the company to push back its original delivery date by 4-6 months.

"We will deliver two planes at the end of 2006. It is a challenge, but it will be done," said Noel Forgeard, co-chief executive of EADS, the parent company of Airbus, at a press conference following EADS' release of 2005 earnings.

The first A380s are being delivered to Singapore Airlines (SIA).

Regarding the A340 long-haul plane, which garnered only 15 sales last year, Forgeard said he expects "a big sale of A340s in very little time." Airbus is currently negotiating the sale of A340s, a rival to Boeing's 777 jet, to Qatar Airways and India's Kingfisher Airlines.

Forgeard also said that if Airbus decides to produce a cargo version of its single-aisle A320 plane, "it will be done in Russia," as part of the joint production and development partnership signed between Airbus and Russia's Irkut in August.

Concerning overall sales for Airbus, Forgeard expects the company's deliveries will peak in 2008, after the record 378 deliveries made last year. For 2006, at least 400 deliveries are targeted.

Asked about persistent speculation that Lagardere SCA or DaimlerChrysler AG could sell down their stakes in EADS, both Forgeard and fellow co-CEO Thomas Enders said this is not a concern in the short-term.

But Enders added that the partial ownership of EADS by the French and Spanish governments was not essential for the company. The French state and Lagardere both own 15 pct of EADS, while the Spanish government, via the SEPI vehicle, owns 5.47 pct of EADS.

"The participation of governments in a company like ours is not necessary for reasons of national security," Enders said, saying he hopes these stakes will be reduced in order to raise the free-float of the company's stock.

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