Boeing gets $11B Lufthansa boost before 777X gets OK

  • By Julie Johnsson, Robert Wall and Richard Weiss Bloomberg News
  • Thursday, September 19, 2013 11:13am
  • Herald Business Journal

CHICAGO — Boeing got an $11 billion boost for its upgraded 777X jet Thursday with a Deutsche Lufthansa order for a model that doesn’t have final approval from the U.S. planemaker’s board.

Lufthansa’s purchase of 34 of Boeing’s 777-9X planes is the first for the new 777, which isn’t slated to begin flying until late this decade. Cologne, Germany-based Lufthansa also agreed to buy 25 Airbus SAS A350-900s, giving the transaction a value of $19 billion at list prices.

It’s the second time an airline has jumped ahead of Boeing directors this year, after Singapore Airlines Ltd. ordered 30 of the larger 787-10 Dreamliner variant in May before that plane’s formal debut at the Paris Air Show in June. The 777X probably will be unveiled at the Dubai Air Show in November, said Peter Arment, an analyst at Sterne, Agee &Leach Inc.

“We expect Boeing to secure well over 100 aircraft for the initial launch of this program, with significantly more orders to follow in 2014,” Arment said in a report today. He rates Chicago-based Boeing as a buy.

While Boeing hasn’t revealed pricing for the -9X, designed to seat more than 400 passengers, Lufthansa’s announcement implies a list price of more than $340 million a plane, wrote Arment, who is based in Birmingham, Ala.

Deliveries of the A350s will start in 2016, and Boeing will follow in 2020, according to Lufthansa, which also has options for an additional 30 units of each plane. The A350-900 lists for $287.7 million, though airlines typically get discounts.

The new jet will be the largest and most-efficient twin- engine aircraft, consuming 20 percent less fuel than current Boeing 777s and providing the lowest operating cost per seat of any jetliner, Boeing said in an e-mailed statement. The company’s go-ahead for the plane is “targeted for later this year,” Boeing said.

The 777X will feature new engines from General Electric and the largest wing ever on a Boeing plane to help improve performance. Lufthansa doesn’t fly the current 777 in its own passenger business and only uses the aircraft for cargo and its Swiss and Austrian subsidiaries.

With new 777s and A350-900s, Lufthansa will be able to phase out aging long-distance jets. The fleet renewal is part of an overhaul initiated under Chief Executive Officer Christoph Franz, who announced his surprise departure this week to join Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG next year.

Lufthansa already unveiled the purchase of new narrow-body Airbus aircraft this year, bringing the total value of planes ordered this year to $31 billion.

“Less fuel consumption, less carbon dioxide emissions and less noise: The aircraft on order will enable us to make a quantum leap in efficiency,” Franz said, according to the statement. “Never in the history of Lufthansa have we made a bigger investment.”

Lufthansa will operate the 777-9X on routes including Munich to Shanghai and Frankfurt to Bangkok, while the A350-900 will be deployed on routes including Frankfurt to Vancouver. Franz said he expects Lufthansa to be first to take the 777X into service, as well as being the first buyer.

In splitting the order after initially saying it would pick a single provider of long-haul jets, Lufthansa maintains its status as the biggest airline customer for Toulouse, France- based Airbus.

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