Britain Lends Airbus Funds for A350 Project

Aug. 16, 2009
Loan will sustain more than 1,200 jobs at Airbus's British plants as well as over 5,000 positions within the supply chain across Britain

Britain on August 14 agreed to lend European planemaker Airbus 340 million pounds to develop its A350 long-haul passenger aircraft in a move to create jobs and boost the struggling aerospace sector. The British government said that it would loan Airbus the equivalent of 394 million euros (US$ 563 million) ahead of the A350's launch in 2013.

It added that the move would create and sustain more than 1,200 jobs at Airbus's British plants as well as over 5,000 positions within the supply chain across Britain.

The move is a boost for the aviation sector, which has been badly hit by a deep global recession, with airlines cancelling orders as demand for air travel weakens.

"We welcome the UK government's decision to invest in the A350 XWB," Airbus president Tom Enders said. "This partnership with the UK government means that the UK taxpayer can expect a sound return on their investment," he added.

Britain's Business Secretary Peter Mandelson described Friday's announcement as "excellent news for the UK aerospace sector and for the thousands of British workers within Airbus and its UK-based supply chain".

Airbus, a division of the European aerospace giant EADS, intends to launch the A350 as a rival to Boeing's 787, which is planned to come onto the market in 2009. The Airbus A350 XWB is described by the company as an eco-friendly passenger aircraft that can seat between 270 and 350 passengers. Able to run on less fuel than current planes, its development is supported by four partner nations -- Britain, France, Germany and Spain.

France has announced support of 1.4 billion euros for the prograe, Germany has proposed support totalling 1.1 billion euros, while the Spanish government remains in discussions with Airbus over its funding offer.

Airbus last week reported 118 confirmed new orders, after cancellations or postponements, for all its aircraft in the first seven months of 2009. The company's stated target for 2009 is to achieve 300 new orders. The latest figures put it ahead of rival Boeing, which as at August 4 had achieved 40 confirmed new orders.

The number of cancelled or postponed orders has become a key measure of airliner manufacturers' health during the global economic crisis. Airbus lost 22 orders to cancellations in the first seven months whereas Boeing lost 89 orders including 73 for its flagship long-haul 787 Dreamliners. In June, Boeing delayed the maiden test-flight for the Dreamliner, which is already two years behind schedule.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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