Plane makers look to ink Asia deals despite emerging market worries

Written by Reuters | Singapore | Updated: Feb 8 2014, 08:04am hrs
Aerospace firms will finalise billions of dollars of deals at next weeks Singapore Airshow, hoping to ride out a storm in emerging markets whose prosperity is vital to their plans to keep producing record numbers of jets.

Asias largest aerospace gathering is usually a show and tell event where executives come to mingle with some of the worlds biggest long-haul carriers and Asias ambitious new travel tycoons, as well as the region's busy military buyers.

After a record $200 billion of deals at last November's Dubai Airshow, few expect Asian buyers to be ordering in similar quantities yet the November 11-16 event will test the appetite of one of aviation's fastest growing regions. Asia is a huge market but has been somewhat eclipsed by the Gulf which has the same idea about how to pursue traffic and got to the orders race a few months before Singapore, said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia, vice president at Virgina-based Teal Group.

Vietnamese, Indian and Thai carriers will place orders for over 100 Airbus or Boeing passenger jets worth $12 billion at list prices, industry officials say. Malaysian Airlines could also place an order for Airbus long-haul and medium-haul jets.

Both Airbus and Boeing have committed to record production rates for their most popular models and have longer-term plans to produce more than 100 narrow-body jets a month between them churning out a $100 million jet every few working hours.

But executives will be looking out for any signs that financial turmoil in key aviation markets like Indonesia and Thailand will threaten economic growth, which directly determines the level of air traffic demand.

The world's no. 1 plane maker Boeing does not see its commercial jet business affected by weakness in emerging markets, chief executive Jim McNerney said this week. But he noted more divergence among such countries, and China and West Asia remained strong.

"Some perspective is very important. We have a short term blip in growth and the orders that are being placed are for the long term, for the requirements eight, nine or 10 years out," said Peter Harbison, chairman of the aviation analysts CAPA.

Airbus and Boeing will face off for the first time with their latest lightweight long-haul jets, the 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350. The A350 will make its first full air show appearance.