Farnborough reels as Airbus slashes superjumbo output

An Airbus A380 aircraft is seen beside the runway during the Farnborough Airshow. (AFP)
Updated 13 July 2016
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Farnborough reels as Airbus slashes superjumbo output

FARNBOROUGH: The aircraft sector hit turbulence as European giant Airbus slashed output of its A380 superjumbo because of weak demand, putting a lid on plane orders generally at Farnborough.
European planemaker Airbus revealed late Tuesday at Farnborough — one of the world’s largest civilian and defense airshows — that it would halve production of its enormous A380 to one a month from 2018.
CEO Tom Enders said Wednesday he hoped the cutbacks would last for “just a year or two,” adding he remained optimistic over the jet’s prospects.
“We are all pretty up optimistic about the longer term prospects of the A380 and I hope this is just a year or two and then we can raise production rates again,” Enders said at the airshow, south of London.
“We decided back in 2000 to launch the A380 (and) little did we know what the world would look like in 2010, 2015 or 2016.”
He added: “We believe in this aircraft, the company knows what to do. We are proactive and I am quite confident that we will be able to (again) raise production rates.”
Enders said Airbus needed “to work harder to convince airlines that this aircraft really pays off if you can fill it.”
“It’s a real money making machine,” he insisted.
In what has been a relatively quiet show for new orders of planes generally, Airbus’ US rival Boeing on Wednesday inked previously-announced jet deals worth a total of $3.79 billion (3.42 billion euros) with Air Europa of Spain and Ruili Airlines of China.
Airbus on Tuesday revealed firm orders for 129 aircraft worth a combined $15.6 billion before the usual discounts are applied.
The orders included a vast $12.5-billion deal for 100 single-aisle A321neo jets from Malaysia’s AirAsia.
However the shock A380 announcement has stolen the show and reminded participants about the gloomy economic backdrop.
The A380 is the world’s largest civilian airplane, carrying up to 544 passengers in a four-class configuration or 853 in just a single class.
The jet has a list price of $432.6 million but it has not registered any sales yet at the week-long Farnborough event.
Dubai’s Emirates airline is the biggest client for the A380, operating 81 with another 142 on order.
“Airbus still continues to face the challenge of securing new orders for the A380,” independent aviation analyst John Strickland said.
“Its best customer, Emirates, would order many more but only if Airbus upgrades its... capability. This is something that Airbus is reluctant to do when it is not making money on the aircraft.”
Strickland added that airlines have a wide choice of large-capacity aircraft built by Boeing and Airbus that are cheaper than the A380 because they require only two engines, not four.
The superjumbo was launched in 2007 and has since received 319 orders from 18 global airlines, of which it still has yet to deliver 126.
Jefferies analyst Sandy Morris said the A380 also faced competition from Boeing’s 777-300ER long-range aircraft.
“The A380 simply ran into a very good all-round competitor in the B777-300ER,” Morris told AFP, adding that Airbus’ target markets of the Indian sub-continent and the wider Asia region has a limited appetite for the superjumbo.
“Those markets have to grow to the point where such a large aircraft is needed,” he said.


Asia’s refining profits slump as Mideast exports surge

Updated 19 min 29 sec ago
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Asia’s refining profits slump as Mideast exports surge

  • Since 2006, the Asia-Pacific has been the world’s biggest oil-consuming region, led by industrial users South Korea and Japan along with rising powerhouses China and India
  • However, overbuilding of refineries and sluggish demand growth have caused a jump in fuel exports from these demand hubs

SINGAPORE: Asia’s biggest oil consumers are flooding the region with fuel as refining output is exceeding consumption amid a slowdown in demand growth, pressuring industry profits.
Since 2006, the Asia-Pacific has been the world’s biggest oil-consuming region, led by industrial users South Korea and Japan along with rising powerhouses China and India.
Yet overbuilding of refineries and sluggish demand growth have caused a jump in fuel exports from these demand hubs.
Compounding the supply overhang, fuel exports from the Middle East, which BP data shows added more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of refining capacity from 2013 to 2017, have doubled since 2014 to around 55 million tons, according to Refinitiv.
Car sales in China, the world’s second-biggest oil user, fell for the first time on record last year, and early 2019 sales also remain weak, suggesting a slowdown in gasoline demand.
For diesel, China National Petroleum Corp. in January said that it expected demand to fall by 1.1 percent in 2019. That would be China’s first annual demand decline for a major fuel since its industrial ascent started in 1990.
The surge in fuel exports combined with a 25 percent jump in crude oil prices so far this year has collapsed Singapore refinery margins, the Asian benchmark, from more than $11 per barrel in mid-2017 to just over $2.
Combine the slumping margins with labor costs and taxes and many Asian refineries now struggle to make money.
The squeezed margins have pummelled the stocks of most major Asian petroleum companies, such as Japan’s refiners JXTG Holdings Inc. or Idemitsu Kosan, South Korea’s top oil processor SK Innovation, Asia’s top oil refiner China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. and Indian Oil Corp., with some companies dropping by about 40 percent over the past year. Jeff Brown, president of energy consultancy FGE, said the surge in exports and resulting oversupply were a “big problem” for the industry.
“The pressure on refinery margins is a case of death by a thousand cuts ... Refinery upgrades throughout the region are bumping up against softening demand growth,” he said.
The profit slump follows a surge in fuel exports from China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Refinitiv shipping data shows fuel exports from those countries have risen threefold since 2014, to a record of around 15 million tons in January.
The biggest jump in exports has come from China, where refiners are selling off record amounts of excess fuel into Asia.
“There is a risk for Asian market turmoil if (China’s fuel) export capacity remains at the current level or grows further,” said Noriaki Sakai, chief executive officer at Idemitsu Kosan during a news conference last week.
But Japanese and South Korean fuel exports have also risen as demand at home falls amid mature industry and a shrinking population. Japan’s 2019 oil demand will drop by 0.1 percent from 2018, while South Korea’s will remain flat, according to forecasts from Energy Aspects.
In Japan, oil imports have been falling steadily for years, yet its refiners produce more fuel than its industry can absorb. The situation is similar in South Korea, the world’s fifth-biggest refiner by capacity, according to data from BP.
Cho Sang-bum, an official at the Korea Petroleum Association, which represents South Korean refiners, said the surging exports had “triggered a gasoline glut.”
That glut caused negative gasoline margins in January.