Boeing Collects More 787 Orders

Boeing Co. on Monday added nearly a dozen orders for its new 787 Dreamliner, the fuel-efficient passenger jet scheduled to make its first flight later this year.

The deals sent Boeing's stock price higher and widened the Chicago-based planemaker's lead over European rival Airbus, whose competing A350 widebody is five years behind the 787 in development.

Boeing confirmed 11 new orders for 787s on Monday: five jets from Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc., and six from ALAFCO Aviation Lease and Finance Co. of Kuwait.

Customers have now ordered 475 of the fuel-efficient Dreamliners from Boeing, which builds its commercial airplanes in the Seattle area.

The long-range, mid-sized 787 is designed to burn 20 percent less fuel than comparable airplanes by using more lightweight composites. Its first flight is scheduled for August, and the jet is expected to enter commercial service in 2008.

Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia said the growing order list confirms the 787 as "the most successful widebody launch in the history of the industry."

"They're over a year away from first delivery and closing in on 500 orders. That's unprecedented," Aboulafia said.

News of the deals pushed Boeing's stock up $1.69, or 1.9 percent, to close at $91.20 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. Boeing shares have traded in a 52-week range of $72.13 to $92.24.

Continental said Monday it had ordered five 787-9 jets, which can fly farther than other versions of the Dreamliner.

The airline also said it upgraded a previous order for a dozen 787s to a longer-range version of the jet. Instead of the 787-8, Continental will get 12 of Boeing's 787-9s, which can fly up to 8,500 nautical miles.

Continental said its 787 orders allow it to replace less-efficient planes, seek more long-haul markets, and sell more seats on international routes.

The five new jets are worth about $916 million at list prices, and a dozen 787-9s are worth $1.8 billion more than 787-8s. Customers often negotiate significant discounts.

ALAFCO ordered six 787-8s on Monday, and was identified as the purchaser of six previously listed orders for the planes. Boeing said ALAFCO was the first Middle East carrier to finalize an order for the Dreamliner.

ALAFCO also ordered six 737-800s. The 18 planes carry a total list price of $2.26 billion.

Getting ALAFCO's business is significant for Boeing, Aboulafia said, because ALAFCO also has ordered the Airbus A350 - the European manufacturer's answer to the Boeing 787.

Meanwhile, Russian long-haul air shipper Volga-Dnepr signed a deal for five new long-range 747-8 freighters, with options for five more.

The deal is a bright spot for Boeing in Russia, where some of the manufacturer's separate efforts to sell the 787 have apparently been stymied by politics.

Boeing has been angling to strike a multibillion-dollar deal with Russian state-controlled carrier Aeroflot, but talks have been put on hold. Tense relations between Russia and the United States are suspected as the cause.

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