Airbus predicts a record sales year, topping 2005

Airbus on Monday forecast record orders this year, putting it on course to beat Boeing Co., after securing more than $50 billion in commitments at the Dubai Air Show.

Orders should surpass the 1,111 amassed in 2005, Chief Executive Tom Enders said. Boeing, which had 956 orders through Oct. 6 and does not forecast orders, is within 66 planes of having its third straight record year.

The contracts won in Dubai are a boost for Toulouse, France- based Airbus as it struggles to end losses after a $6.8-billion charge from the A380 super jumbo and delays to its new A350 long-haul plane. The cost of the holdups and the use of discounts to squeeze out Boeing might mean that even with more orders, the European company will struggle to beat its U.S. rival's financial performance.

Purchases from Middle Eastern airlines are running at record levels as oil-rich states use their wealth to develop into tourist and travel hubs. Airbus on Sunday won a $31-billion contract from Emirates, the biggest Arab carrier, followed Monday by a $13.5-billion deal from Dubai Aerospace Enterprise's leasing unit.

Boeing won a $13.7-billion order from DAE and one for $6.1 billion from Qatar Airways. The U.S. company may benefit next year as North American airlines replace planes, it said Monday.

Airbus is cutting 10,000 jobs after it had a loss of 572 million euros last year, before interest and tax -- compared with earnings of $3.81 billion at Boeing -- even after delivering 36 more aircraft than its rival.

Wiring problems put the A380 two years behind schedule and the A350 was redesigned five times to win acceptance from airlines, pushing deliveries five years behind Boeing's 787. The A400M military transport plane is running a year late, prompting a 1.1-billion-euro charge in the third quarter of this year.

Deliveries for Airbus, which is accelerating production of its A320-series narrow-body aircraft, will exceed 450, Enders said, making it the No. 1 jetliner manufacturer for a fifth straight year. Airbus had previously forecast 440 to 450 deliveries for 2007. Boeing spokesman Brian Walker reiterated Monday that the Chicago-based company expected to hand over 440 to 445 planes.

The European company will have a backlog of more than 3,000 orders by the end of this week -- equal to five or six years of work, Enders said at a news conference. It had secured 1,021 contracts by the end of October, compared with 956 at Boeing.

Dubai-based Emirates placed a firm order for 70 A350s, with 50 options, plus 11 double-deck A380s. The decision is a vote of confidence for the A350, which costs more than the 787 and isn't available until 2013.

Airbus now expects to seal contracts for 300 A350s before the end of the year. The 787 has production problems of its own and is due at the end of next year, six months later than planned. Boeing had 736 orders for the plane at the end of October, making it the company's most successful sales effort for a new commercial model.

Also Monday, Airbus secured a contract for 34 A320 craft valued at $2.48 billion from Air Arabia, a United Arab Emirates discount carrier. Saudi Arabian Airlines ordered an additional 22 of the type, worth about $1.6 billion at list price.