Monday , July 02, 2018 - 11:35 AM
(c) 2018, Bloomberg.
Airbus will miss its delivery target for Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo narrow-body jets this year, after problems with the engines caused an almost three-month halt in shipments, people familiar with the matter said.
The Toulouse, France-based planemaker expects to deliver 30 to 40 fewer of the aircraft than it previously anticipated, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal plans. Airbus had planned to hand over about 210 of the Pratt-powered jets -- one of two engine options for the A320neo -- during the rest of this year, the person said. It could get closer to that target if Pratt, a unit of United Technologies Corp., can accelerate turbine production beyond current levels.
Airbus shares fell as much as 3.2 percent on Monday, following the Bloomberg report. The company reiterated its overall production target for shipping 800 planes of all models this year, it said in a statement, declining to comment on specifics of the A320 program.
The delays on Airbus’s hottest selling model -- a workhorse for airlines worldwide -- threaten to expose the planemaker and Pratt to late penalties from frustrated customers. The tardiness also will pressure Airbus’s effort to ramp up production generally, reducing room for maneuvering in its schedule. The company had planned to use this year to catch up from other delivery delays from 2017, a goal that is now out of reach.
Airbus had said in early June that it expected higher costs to manage delivery of scores of aircraft that were parked without engines after the latest issue with a knife-edge seal on the high-tech engine, one of several in a new generation of fuel-saving power plants from manufacturers that have suffered through persistent teething pains.
At the time, commercial-aircraft chief Guillaume Faury called the situation “challenging,” but said that “if the engine manufacturers stick to their plans, we will stick to ours or very close.” Airbus expects to work through almost all of the so-called glider backup by year-end, he said then.
Operations should “normalize” in 2019, according to analysts at Bernstein, who forecast A320neo deliveries to be 50 aircraft lower than planned. Airbus’s handovers are also “lagging slightly” due to the complexity of moving the parked planes and the requirement to build both new and old versions of the jet, the analysts wrote in a note to clients.
Airbus fell 2.5 percent to close at 97.71 euros in Paris. The shares are up 18 percent this year, giving the European planemaker, whose biggest owners are the French and German governments, a market value of 75.8 billion euros ($88 billion).
Pratt & Whitney didn’t respond to requests for comment. Shares of parent United Technologies were down 0.9 percent as of 12:31 p.m. in New York.
IndiGo, the largest customer for the A320neo model with 430 jets on order, fell 3.6 percent in Mumbai to its lowest since September. The airline has previously said it has been forced to lease A320ceo planes on short-term deals, adding to costs.
Airbus is due to publish monthly order and delivery totals for June this week. “At the end of the day or year, what matters is achieving the guidance, to have delivered around 800 aircraft and the corresponding, incoming cash linked to those deliveries,” Airbus said in an email.
Airbus can still meet its target for deliveries of the A320 family of planes, people familiar with the matter said, by picking up the slack with other engine options, including the A320ceo. That variant is less expensive than the more fuel-efficient neo, which stands for new engine option.
The company plans to ship about 210 more A320neo planes with engines made by CFM International, a joint venture of Safran and General Electric, one of the people said. Its Leap turbine, which is also running behind schedule, has contributed to the number of aircraft that have been undelivered.
The latest problem in Pratt’s geared turbofan -- a fault in its knife-edge seal that led to in-flight shutdowns -- is just the most recent in a series of afflictions for the turbine. Bloomberg News reported last month that Pratt & Whitney is close to finalizing a redesign of the faulty part.
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