By Tom Pfeiffer
Plane maker expects orders from the Middle East of between 40 and 50 aircraft this year.
Airbus expects orders from the Middle East of between 40 and 50 aircraft this year, about the same as in 2009, the company's top executive for the region told Reuters on Thursday.
Airbus's president for the Middle East, Habib Fekih, also said he expected 2010 deliveries in the region to match or exceed the 70 planes delivered last year, and said Airbus customers globally were seeking less vendor finance than expected.
Asked about Middle East orders, Fekih said: "In 2009 in net orders we were well placed... about 40 planes, so 16-17 percent (of the Airbus total). That proportion was a bit less than previously but that was because we sold loads in 2008 and 2007."
"In 2010 we should come back to the same proportions as 2009, so 40 to 50 planes," he said in interview on the sidelines of an aerospace industry fair in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.
"We delivered 70 planes in the region in 2009. In 2010 we think we will deliver as many if not more," he said.
Commenting on the impact of the world economic downturn on Airbus's global sales, Fekih said: "Airlines did not call on us for customer financing as much as we'd expected in 2009. We had been much more pessimistic."
"Looking towards the first few months of 2010, it seems to be the same trend."
Airbus is the world's biggest plane-maker, slightly ahead of its rival Boeing.
Earlier this month Airbus's global sales chief John Leahy forecast between 250 and 300 plane orders in 2010, compared with 310 orders last year, and predicted that the market would pick up from 2012.
Passenger traffic in the Middle East has coped with the global economic slowdown better than other regions and large fleet ordering programmes have helped aircraft sales.
Dubai's Emirates airline is the planemaker's biggest customer by order value but Airbus said after the local debt crisis erupted at the end of last year that it had complete faith in the airline and that it was meeting all its payments. ($1=.7122 euros)(Reuters)