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AIR SHOW: Airbus Closes In On Record Show Orders

By David Pearson and Daniel Michaels Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES LE BOURGET, France -(Dow Jones)- Airbus continued to dominate orders at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday, while Bombardier Inc. (BDRBF, BBD.A.T, BBD.B.T) made a breakthrough in Asia. The new Airbus A320neo aircraft won more than 100 more commitments on the second day of the industry's banner event, with deals for airlines in Europe, Asia and the U.S. as well as leasing companies, setting the European planemaker up to eclipse the record 728 orders inked at the 2007 show. "It's two stories: In the U.S. and Western Europe, airlines are replacing older planes. And Asia, the Middle East and Latin America are growth markets," said Jeff Knittel, president of transportation finance at CIT Group Inc. (CIT), as the leasing unit announced another slew of orders. "Airlines are fundamentally stronger than they've been in years," said Knittel, as CIT unveiled the largest deal of the day with a commitment for 50 A320neos with a list price of $4.6 billion. The Airbus order book at the show swelled to $26.1 billion--excluding discounts--with commitments for 121 A320-family planes on Tuesday. The unit of European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. NV (EADSY, EAD.FR) expects its A320neo book to swell above 600 by the end of the show on Thursday. While the A320neo pipeline has been well flagged, Canada's Bombardier secured its first customer in Asia with Korean Air Lines Co. (003490.SE) signing a letter of intent for 10 of the larger CSeries aircraft, with options for 10 more and purchase rights on 10 additional CS300 planes. The narrowbody market for planes with between 100 and 200 seats is the key battleground for the industry, with the duopoly between Airbus and Boeing Co. (BA) in the sector set to end over the next few years. Bombardier, China's Comac and a potential new launch from Brazil's Embraer SA (ERJ, EMBR3.BR) are all competing for a slice of the largest commercial aircraft segment. While the Comac C919--slated for entry into service in 2016--is seen aimed largely at the domestic market, company officials said they were working with overseas carriers, including Ryanair and an unnamed U.S. airline. General Electric Co. (GE), a partner in the Comac program, said it saw a market to sell 3,000 of the planes, higher than previous expectations. GE said it expected to win orders worth more than $10 billion at the show from sales of engines, avionics and technical and financial services. GE Capital Aviation Services, the world's largest aircraft lessor, made its first commitment for the Boeing 747-8 freighter on Tuesday--with a firm order for two--as well as eight 777-300ERs. Norman Liu, head of the Gecas unit, said at an analysts' presentation that the company remains underweight in widebody aircraft and was pursuing financing opportunities for planes such as the Airbus A330, Boeing 787 and revamped 747. While Boeing has yet to decide how to respond to the A320neo--either by revamping its own 737 model or building an all-new plane--Airbus has started to win business from its U.S. rival. Garuda Indonesia (GIAA.JK, PSEOY) ordered 15 standard A320s and 10 A320neos, with the latter aimed at its low-cost unit, an existing 737 operator. Other A320neo orders Tuesday included one for 40 aircraft from JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU) and a firm commitment from Taiwan-based TransAsia Airways (6702.OT) for six re-engined versions of the stretched A321. Garuda is also taking options for another 25 aircraft. Airbus already has bettered its performance at Farnborough, England, last year when it took in customer commitments for a total of 255 aircraft valued at $28 billion, including 133 firm orders worth more than $13 billion. The order inflow at Airbus is expected to continue. Airbus has scheduled two announcements for Wednesday and possibly one Thursday. Boeing on Tuesday picked up an order for 15 737-800 aircraft worth $1.2 billion at list prices from low-fare carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (NAS.OS) while late Monday in Washington, D.C., MIAT Mongolian Airlines ordered two 737-800s and one 767-300ER in a $245 million deal. Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (3786.KU) exercised an option to buy 10 737-800s for $800 million at current list prices. Russia's OAO Aeroflot (AERAY, AFLT.RS) will receive eight long-haul 777-300ERs. The order was previously attributed to an unidentified customer on Boeing's orders and deliveries website. -By David Pearson and Daniel Michaels, Dow Jones Newswires; 33 1 4017 1751; david.pearson@dowjones.com -Peter Sanders and Caroline Van Hasselt in Le Bourget, Jonathan Buck in London and Doug Cameron in Chicago contributed to this article.

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