January 3, 2019 / 2:32 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Airbus bags orders for Canadian jet in last-minute sales push

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PARIS, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Airbus finalised orders for a total of 120 of the former Bombardier CSeries jetliner on Thursday, narrowing a gap in sales against Boeing thanks to the arrival in its portfolio of the smaller jets but leaving it trailing in core orders.

Airbus, which took over the loss-making CSeries in July last year and rebranded it the A220, said it had finalised deals to sell 60 each of the planes to U.S.-based JetBlue and to Moxy, a U.S. start-up backed by JetBlue founder David Neeleman.

They are the first formal orders for the 110-130-seat plane since Airbus took majority control of the Montreal-based programme with Bombardier and Quebec as partners.

That realignment sets the stage for a broader confrontation with Boeing, which last month closed a deal to take over 80 percent of the commercial unit of Bombardier’s competitor Embraer, subject to Brazilian government approval.

For 2018, most attention is on the core sales battle between the transatlantic plane giants, with Boeing so far in the lead.

Airbus ended November with 35 percent of net sales in the main jetliner market against its U.S. rival after 11 months overshadowed by management changes and delivery delays.

Since then it has picked up speed with formal deals for 220 aircraft, including a 100-plane order from Irish lessor Avolon, leaving it 90 short of Boeing's end-November total of 690 jets.

On a like-for-like basis, excluding the former CSeries model, Airbus has reached a total of 480 net sales for the year against Boeing's most recent tally of 690, while reaching a market share of 41 percent, based on reported orders.

Airbus plans to give full-year figures on Jan. 11. Both companies often pull in last-minute deals to lift annual totals, with announcements delayed until early the following year.

Airbus is meanwhile preparing a keenly awaited delivery tally, amid growing doubts over whether it has been able to achieve a 2018 target of 800 deliveries, or 782 without counting any of the Canadian A220 jets, industry sources said.

One said it was "more than likely" Airbus had missed the target by a handful of jets, marking the first time it has done so since it was reshaped through European mergers in 2000.

An Airbus spokesman declined to comment.

Deliveries are closely watched by investors since they mark the point at which most cash and operating profit are generated.

Planemakers worldwide have been struggling with supplier problems in the past 12 months and Airbus has faced some production snags and quality problems, though any shortfall in deliveries is not expected to have a significant profit impact. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter)

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