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Boeing Revises Way It Tallies Orders, Cutting Airbus’ Lead by 183 Planes

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From Bloomberg News

Boeing Co., facing an escalating challenge from rival Airbus Industrie, said Wednesday it will change the way it reports orders and is adding 183 jetliners to its order tally, narrowing the Airbus lead in this year’s race.

The total includes a $2.6-billion order for 20 wide-bodied jets from General Electric Co.’s aircraft-leasing arm and 163 orders, valued at $9 billion, from customers who wish to remain undisclosed for now. It’s a departure for Boeing, which had criticized Airbus’ practice of including unannounced orders.

The shift boosts Boeing’s orders for the year to 368, closer to the 420 won by Airbus. It illustrates the growing pressure Boeing has faced from Airbus, which is on pace to win the annual order race for only the second time in its 30-year history. At the current pace of orders, analysts estimate Airbus will unseat Boeing as the biggest jet maker by 2002.

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The Seattle-based company added a list of previously undisclosed orders to the backlog on its Web site, breaking them down by model rather than customer. Boeing said they’re all firm, signed orders with scheduled delivery dates.

Boeing’s tally includes a 50-plane order from International Lease Finance Corp., according to the Wall Street Journal. A spokeswoman for Los Angeles-based ILFC declined comment.

Alan Mulally, president of Boeing’s commercial-airplane group, said the change allows investors to have information the company itself uses when it makes delivery and sales projections. Customers don’t make the bulk of payments for each jet until they actually receive it.

Mulally also said Boeing orders next year could be the same or slightly higher with a continued “soft landing” in Asia and strong economies in the U.S. and Europe. Boeing is more exposed to the Asian fallout than Airbus because it makes more large jets like the 747, favored by Asian airlines.

An Airbus spokesman declined to comment on the change in Boeing’s policy, other than to say “the year isn’t over yet.”

The French company, a partnership of four European plane makers, on Wednesday won a $1.2-billion order from Scandinavian Airlines System for 10 long-haul A340 and A330 aircraft to replace Boeing 767s.

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Boeing shares rose 25 cents Wednesday to $38.75 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock’s high for the day was $40.56.

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