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Dubai Airshow: Senegal to buy 6 Airbus jetliners

Airbus said Wednesday it agreed to sell six jetliners to newly created Senegal Airlines, giving the European plane maker bragging rights to more than $5 billion worth of orders at a subdued Dubai Airshow.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Airbus said Wednesday it agreed to sell six jetliners to newly created Senegal Airlines, giving the European plane maker bragging rights to more than $5 billion worth of orders at a subdued Dubai Airshow.

A slumping aviation market stemming from the economic downturn has kept Airbus and its U.S. rival Boeing Co. from announcing any of the blockbuster deals seen at the last Dubai show two years ago, though both have benefited from the modest expansion plans of growing airlines in the developing world.

Senegal Airlines' deal was a letter of intent — effectively a promise to buy — four A320 and two A330 planes. Airbus valued the deal at $670 million, though buyers typically negotiate discounts below the list price.

Altogether, the Toulouse, France-based plane maker said it signed more than $5.3 billion in deals over the first four days of the weeklong show. That figure includes $3.6 billion in firm orders, and another $1.7 billion for 18 planes covered by the type of agreement in the Senegal deal.

Senegal Airlines is the new national carrier of the West African country, replacing Air Senegal International. It plans to start service early next year from the Senegalese capital Dakar.

Airbus' firm orders included two double-decker A380 "superjumbos" that will be packed with a record 840 economy-class seats for Air Austral, and a dozen of the "extra wide-body" A350-900s for Ethiopian Airlines.

"We had a good airshow," Chief Operating Officer John Leahy said in a statement Wednesday, signaling additional Airbus orders were unlikely. He cautioned that the "industry is not out of the woods yet" and faces "a difficult winter ahead."

Boeing has announced two aircraft orders at the show, which ends Thursday. The Chicago-based company signed deals Tuesday to sell 11 737-800 jetliners to Algeria's government-run Air Algerie and Tassili Airlines.

Marty Bentrott, Boeing senior vice president in charge of sales for the region, said any more "significant orders" were unlikely.

Organizers say manufacturers have sealed $13 billion of orders at this year's show. That is less than a tenth of the $155 billion worth of deals inked at the 2007 show.

Last time around, orders were driven largely by fast-growing Gulf carriers such as Dubai's Emirates and Qatar Airways. While those airlines are still growing, their sales have taken a hit from the drop in business travel. They also have to digest hundreds of planes already booked from both of the major manufacturers.

Military aerospace companies also have seen only a trickle of deals at this year's show.

U.S. defense contractors Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. said Wednesday they are teaming with a local company to open a missile defense logistics center in the United Arab Emirates. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deal with Abu Dhabi-based Global Aerospace Logistics will initially focus on deploying Patriot missiles in the oil-rich Arab country.

The U.S. ally, which sits across the Persian Gulf from Iran, ordered a $3.3 billion advanced Patriot defense system late last year.

Patriot missile systems are designed to identify incoming missiles and shoot them down before they hit their target.

On Tuesday, the UAE armed forces reached deals with Sweden's Saab and Switzerland's Pilatus Aircraft for aerial radar and training aircraft worth about $725 million.