Article excerpt

Byline: By Tim Hepher and Rhys Jones Special correspondents

AEUR40 billion spree by Gulf oil states prevented aircraft orders going into freefall at this week's Farnborough Airshow - but left little for Airbus and Boeing to scrap over.

Airbus, the planemaking subsidiary of European aerospace group EADS, squeezed out a handful of final orders on day four of a show that exposed a yawning divide between the industry's rich and poor as oil prices approach EUR150 a barrel.

Airbus and Boeing posted 444 firm orders worth EUR62 billion. That exceeded the forecasts of many who said they would struggle to reach half the 600 firm deals seen at a similar showcase in Paris in 2007.

EADS shares rose 6.1 per cent, while Boeing opened flat.

The fierce industry rivals came to Farnborough neck and neck with net 2008 orders of 487 planes for Airbus and 475 for Boeing, and are now close to their targets for the year.

Airbus posted firm orders of 247 planes worth EUR38 billion, bringing net orders this year to 734 aircraft.

Sales chief John Leahy upped his forecast for 2008 orders to more than 850 aircraft from 700, but acknowledged this meant a slowdown in the rest of the year as airlines hoard cash.

"There's definitely more softness in the second half," he said.

The European company sold 1,341 planes in 2007, the climax of an unprecedented threeyear industry bubble.

Boeing announced firm orders for 197 planes worth EUR23.6 billion this week, but many were already in its backlog and only 65 were new. This brings the tally this year to 542 planes, including an additional two orders to undisclosed buyers announced separately.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Scott Carson predicted fewer than 1,000 orders in 2008 after 1,413 in 2007.

High oil prices have raised fears of a slew of order deferrals and cancellations as airlines trim capacity or wrestle with bankruptcy. …