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Sun 18 Jan 2009 01:42 PM

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Airbus expects big Mideast sales slump

Plane maker's Mideast chief says company would be 'more than happy' to sell 100 aircraft in 2009.

Airbus chiefs have admitted the aircraft manufacturer will sell at least 50 percent fewer planes in the Middle East this year than 2008.

Habib Fekih, president of Airbus Middle East, told reporters on Sunday that the company would be “more than happy” to sell 100 aircraft in 2009 – a significant drop from the 239 sold last year.

When announcing Airbus’ plans for 2009, Fekih added a decline is expected following two years of exceptionally high demand from local carriers.

“Look at the airlines – who is going to buy more?” Fekih said. “Emirates has done everything; Qatar Airways, Gulf Air and Saudi Arabian Airlines have done everything. It’s only airlines which need new fleets such as Kuwait Airways and Sudan Airways [that might buy new planes] and that’s it."

“We had two or three years of renewals and expansion and now it [demand] will come down and we don’t expect to do the same number this year. If we do around 100 sales we will be more than happy and that’s enough.”

An Airbus spokesperson said sales of 100 aircraft would represent Airbus Middle East’s third best year since 1999.

The aircraft manufacturer delivered 483 planes worldwide last year, including A320s and A330s. Meanwhile, 12 A380s were received by different airlines.

Airbus has a backlog of 665 planes, worth some $110 billion, for Middle Eastern carriers. It expects to deliver 58 aircraft this year to airlines operating in this region and North Africa.

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