Airbus fights to defend A330 as order decisions loom

Imminent airline decisions on $10 billion of wide-body plane orders could influence the fate of Airbus’ A330neo even before the recently upgraded jet completes flight trials. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 March 2018
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Airbus fights to defend A330 as order decisions loom

PARIS: Imminent airline decisions on $10 billion of wide-body plane orders could influence the fate of Airbus’ A330neo even before the recently upgraded jet completes flight trials, industry sources said.
American Airlines said in January it was reviewing the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and shorter-range Airbus A330-900, which is in test flights before entering service this summer.
The US airline, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, aims to buy some 25-30 wide-body jets and could make a decision in coming days, one of the sources said.
Even Boeing’s most vigorous supporters doubt Airbus would give up on the A330neo, which is key for its bottom line, but the contest marks the latest in a series of battles between Boeing’s newest long-haul jet in the air, the 787 Dreamliner, and upcoming A330neo — a market-share feud that has consumed the two planemakers for the past nine months or more.
Level, a long-haul budget carrier recently set up by British Airways owner IAG, is also closing in on an order for about 8 planes in the same segment, the sources said.
“We’ll wait and see and we’ll take advantage of whatever aircraft is available,” IAG boss Willie Walsh said on Tuesday.
Airbus has had patchy results with the latest version of its money-spinning A330, relaunched in 2014 with efficient new Rolls-Royce engines, and has made boosting sales one of its top priorities this year.
A330 family output has fallen to six a month from a peak of 10, making the success or failure of Airbus’s only profitable wide-body line a key topic for investors.
“The A330 makes money and generates cash, while absorbing a great deal of overhead,” said Sash Tusa, aerospace analyst at Agency Partners, adding that its long list of customers was useful to Airbus when it came to marketing other planes.

HAWAII SWITCH
Jitters over the future of the A330neo became apparent when AirAsia, one of Airbus’s largest customers, toyed with the idea of switching to Boeing’s 787.
Its decision to uphold an order for 66 jets, first reported by Reuters, eased pressure on the A330neo but analysts say that could change if it feels too exposed as the dominant buyer. .
The last major A330neo order was for 28 planes from IranAir but doubts are growing whether that can be implemented any time soon due to US concerns about a nuclear sanctions deal.
Now, sources say Hawaiian Airlines has dropped an order for A330neos for the 787, a switch first reported by Leeham News.
With that in mind, industry sources agree Airbus is under intense pressure to win at American, preventing further output cuts and gaining valuable bragging rights in future contests across Asia.
Keeping the A330neo in the game would also leave less space for a new mid-market plane that Boeing is thinking of launching as early as this year — a 225-275-seat model that partly competes with the A330 family.
An Airbus spokesman declined to comment on specific contests, but said, “Many campaigns are ongoing, building on the 110 airlines who are operating the A330 family today.”
After trouncing Airbus in wide-body sales last year, Boeing aims to seize the advantage by targeting Airbus’s slow-selling A330neo with further sales of its competing 787.
Some analysts have speculated Boeing would also revive the passenger version of its 767 as a cheaper alternative to the A330, but an executive ruled this out.
But keeping A330neo output to a minimum would leave Airbus increasingly dependent on one model, the much newer A350-900, for its position in the wide-body market — mirroring Boeing’s predicament in the Airbus-led narrowbody market.
As the two marketing armies chase around the globe to the next 787-A330 dog fight, Australia’s Qantas and Air New Zealand could be next to step into the battle, sources said.


New Zealand to conduct own assessment of Huawei equipment risk

Updated 18 February 2019
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New Zealand to conduct own assessment of Huawei equipment risk

  • Huawei faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government
  • Several Western countries had restricted Huawei’s access to their markets

WELLINGTON: New Zealand will independently assess the risk of using China’s Huawei Technologies in 5G networks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday after a report suggested that British precautions could be used by other nations.
Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government and US-led allegations that its equipment could be used by Beijing for spying.
No evidence has been produced publicly and the firm has repeatedly denied the allegations, which have led several Western countries to restrict Huawei’s access to their markets.
The Financial Times reported on Sunday that the British government had decided it can mitigate the risks arising from the use of Huawei equipment in 5G networks. It said Britain’s conclusion would “carry great weight” with European leaders and other nations could use similar precautions.
New Zealand’s intelligence agency in November rejected an initial request from telecommunications services provider Spark to use 5G equipment provided by Huawei.
At the time, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) gave Spark options to mitigate national security concerns over the use of Huawei equipment, Ardern said on Monday.
“The ball is now in their court,” she told a weekly news conference.
Ardern said New Zealand, which is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network that includes the United Kingdom and the United States, would conduct its own assessment.
“I would expect the GCSB to apply with our legislation and our own security assessments. It is fair to say Five Eyes, of course, share information but we make our own independent decisions,” she said.
Huawei New Zealand did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spark said it was in discussions with GCSB officials.
“We are working through what possible mitigations we might be able to provide to address the concerns raised by the GCSB and have not yet made any decision on whether or when we should submit a revised proposal to GCSB,” Spark spokesman Andrew Pirie said in an emailed statement.
The Huawei decision, along with the government’s tougher stance on China’s growing influence in the Pacific, has some politicians and foreign policy analysts worried about potential strained ties with a key trading partner.
Ardern’s planned first visit to Beijing has faced scheduling issues, and China last week postponed a major tourism campaign in New Zealand days before its launch.
Ardern said her government’s relationship with China was strong despite some complex issues.
“Visits are not a measure of the health of a relationship they are only one small part of it,” she said, adding that trade and tourism ties remained strong.