World Economy

Airbus Signs Biggest Ever Deal

Airbus Signs Biggest Ever DealAirbus Signs Biggest Ever Deal

Airbus SE announced the biggest commercial-plane transaction in its history, securing an order for single-aisle aircraft valued at nearly $50 billion at the Dubai Air Show, outdoing Boeing Co.’s own $20 billion mega-deal.

Wednesday’s pact for 430 A320neo planes with US investor Indigo Partners marked a turnaround for Airbus at the Persian Gulf expo, where it had been trailing its rival. It’s also a crowning achievement for sales chief John Leahy, who is set to retire after a career in which he has struck deals for more than 16,000 jets and lifted the European planemaker into a duopoly position with Boeing, Bloomberg reported.

For Indigo Partners, led by Bill Franke, the Airbus accord provides upgraded narrow-body aircraft to boost the fleets of low-cost carriers from Denver to Budapest. The planes will go to four companies in Indigo’s investment portfolio: Frontier Airlines, Mexico’s Volaris, East European operator Wizz Air Holdings Plc and Chile’s JetSmart, which began operating this year.

The deal features 273 A320neo jets together with 157 of the larger A321neo variant and is worth $49.5 billion before customary discounts, Airbus said. Leahy, 67, called the transaction “remarkable,” while Franke, 80, who co-founded Indigo in 2002, said it underscores his confidence in the A320 and the bargain fares, no-frills travel model he helped develop.

Airbus shares rose as much as 4% and were trading 2.9% higher at €85.93 ($101.78) in Paris, taking the gain this year to 37%.

Meanwhile, Boeing recovered some ground with the sale of 175 737-Max planes, the A320’s main competitor, to FlyDubai, a deal big enough to have dominated most air shows.

While that order will come as an irritation for Airbus, with the airline having been expected to split it between the two manufacturers, the Toulouse, France-based company wasn’t done at the Dubai event. It went on to announce EgyptAir Airlines Co. as the operator of 15 A320neos previously ordered by leasing firm AerCap Holdings NV.

The Indigo deal more than doubles Airbus’s previous order book for the year, which stood at about 290 aircraft as of Oct. 31, pushes the planemaker’s backlog above 7,000 jets and reverses expectations that orders will trail deliveries in 2017.

The haul will also help Airbus catch up to Boeing in the order tally this year, with the European planemaker having chalked up 343 contracts at the end of last month, compared with 690 for its Chicago-based rival as of Nov. 7.

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