Investors’ bull case on aircraft OEMs has gaps

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By Judson Rollins

Introduction 

April 15, 2021, © Leeham News: Late last month, the aerospace and defense analysis team at Credit Suisse (CS) published its view on the future of the Airbus-Boeing duopoly, as well as an introduction to COMAC’s market position and future.

CS’s main thesis struck a decidedly upbeat note: “As a result of excess retirements due to [COVID-19], significant [sustainability investor] pressure on decarbonization, and the appeal of new warrantied aircraft, we might actually expect a period of solid new aircraft demand in a year or two.”

In terms of specific manufacturers, the team was unsurprisingly more bullish on Airbus than Boeing. They cited Airbus’s “strong market positions in narrowbodies” and their expectation that Boeing’s “recovery will be encumbered by the realities of its product portfolio.” CS did see room for longer-term optimism on Boeing, arguing that while spend on new product development “would pressure numbers this decade, it could also shift the competitive pendulum back … helping anchor a higher terminal [share] value.”

However, CS’s view seems to be more optimistic than that reflected in the two manufacturers’ equity prices. Airbus and Boeing shares are down 23% and 26% from their respective early-2020 highs.

A deeper look into their analysis raises several questions about the future trajectory for commercial aircraft sales.

Summary

  • Aircraft retirements aren’t the overreaction they appear to be.
  • Sustainability is already a priority for airlines and manufacturers; new regulations will only dampen commercial aircraft demand.
  • The appeal of new aircraft, while boosted by low interest rates, must be balanced against the wide availability of used ones.
  • A slow recovery in business travel will dampen yields, crimping investment in new aircraft.

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Today’s 737 MAX, A320neo values vs 2019

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

April 12, 2021, © Leeham News: The Boeing 737 MAX reentered service in December after a 20 month grounding.

Determining values post-grounding and during the COVID-19 pandemic was complicated. The question over values is further confused by steep discounts given by Boeing as part of its need to compensate customers for the grounding.

There have been few “free market” MAX transactions to establish a solid current market value (CMV). The appraisal firm Aviation Specialists Group (ASG) last week issued its April Guide, listing values of virtually every jet airplane in service—and some that aren’t, yet. (ASG lists the Boeing 737-10 MAX, which is not even in flight testing, but not the 737-7 MAX, which was the lead test airplane for recertification.)

Summary
  • MAX values this month compared with April 2019 are double-digit lower on a percentage basis, except for the MAX 10.
  • A320neo values softened in the pandemic environment, but are better than the MAX.
  • A321neo values went up slightly last month compared with 2019.

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Analyzing the trades between a single- and twin-aisle NMA

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By the Leeham News Team

Introduction

April 8, 2021, © Leeham News: Some people believe Boeing should launch a new single-aisle airplane about the size of the 757-200/300 to compete with the Airbus 321neo.

Others believe the new airplane should be a twin-aisle aircraft. A few, including LNA, believe the new airplane must be a three-member family and must be a twin-aisle.

The largest member of a single-aisle Boeing NMA would be longer than the Boeing 757-300. Photo: Delta Air Lines.

Whatever the new airplane is, the general specifications are aircraft up to 250 passengers in two classes and a range of up to 5,000nm.

There is also agreement the airplane must start across from the A321neo. Configurations vary widely, but 190-200 seats in two classes are common.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun said on an earnings call that the next new airplane will compete with the A321 and cover the Middle of the Market.

Summary
  • A single-aisle, 250-passenger airplane would be longer than the 757-300.
  • Technical build challenges, while not insurmountable, exist with long, thin airplane.
  • Gate and ramp space constraints accompany a long airplane.
  • Other trades exist for a twin-aisle design.

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Boeing’s freighter dominance threatened

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By Scott Hamilton

April 6, 2021, © Leeham News: As if Boeing didn’t have enough challenges these days, its near-exclusive dominance for new-build freighter may be threatened.

Boeing continues to see the 767-300ERF, which proved to be a popular freighter. Photo: FedEx.

Airbus is showing airlines and lessors a freight version of the A350 that is midway in length between the -900 and -1000 passenger versions. If enough orders are lined up—50 is said to be the magic number—Airbus could launch the program as early as this year.

Reuters first reported the effort.

But the Airbus threat isn’t the only one to Boeing’s decades’ long leadership in new-build freighters.

International regulations that take effect in 2027 mean the 777-200LRF and 767-300ERF that Boeing builds today can no longer be produced from 2027. The two aircraft won’t meet new, strict noise and emissions regulations. The engine designs and technology on the 777F date to the 1990s. Those on the 767s date to the 1980s.

The 777-8F was to be Boeing’s next generation freighter. However, program delays, financial pressures, and certification challenges cast doubts whether the -8F will be launched.

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Diverging financial fortunes for Airlines and Lessors

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Air Lease Corporation A321 XLR Rendering Credit: Airbus

April 5, 2021, © Leeham News: Most airlines and lessors that publish their financial results publicly have done so for 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic harmed all stakeholders’ financials in the commercial aviation industry. However, the impact varies significantly from one group to another. There are also significant differences between companies within a group.

LNA collected financial information on airlines and lessors to assess the pandemic’s economic damage. The differences in financial impact have altered the balance of power within the commercial aviation ecosystem. The varying fortunes will impact each stakeholder’s say in current and future aircraft programs.

Summary
  • A financial bloodbath for airlines;
  • Financial outliers;
  • Lessors mostly ok for now;
  • Impact on future OEM programs.

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The A350, Part 12 Wrap Up

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By Bjorn Fehrm and Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Apr. 1, 2021, © Leeham News: After extensively discussing the A350 family and comparing it with its main competitors, it is now time to wrap up the series.

Summary

  • Success after a few false starts;
  • Equal share in the twin-aisle market within reach;
  • Lineup strengths and weaknesses;
  • Looking ahead.

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Airbus trails Boeing in US in-service airplanes but leads with backlog

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

March 29, 2021, © Leeham News: As airlines across the global struggle to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbus faces a weakened Boeing.

Some might argue Airbus has the advantage over Boeing, which is beset by a huge inventory of 737 MAXes and a growing number of undelivered 787s.

Others might argue that Boeing, desperate for cash, faced with billions of dollars of customer compensation claims and MAX whitetails, is willing to cut prices below levels Airbus will match.

There is anecdotal evidence Boeing is slashing MAX prices. Two high-profile campaigns in the US are illustrative. Last week, LNA examined bake-offs between Airbus and Boeing for Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines. United Airlines appeared to place an opportunistic order for 25 MAX 9 whitetails.

This week, LNA takes a deep dive into the competitive situation between Airbus and Boeing in the US.

Summary
  • Adjusting for pre-pandemic in-service fleets, Airbus trails Boeing in the US but not by much for in the narrowbody sector.
  • However, Boeing overwhelms Airbus in the widebody sector.
  • Airbus currently has a lopsided lead in backlog orders for narrowbodies, but this lead is unlikely to hold.
  • Airbus also currently leads in backlog orders for widebodies, but one large order is squishy.

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The A350, Part 11: Can a standard A350-1000 fly the project Sunrise route?

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

March 25, 2021, © Leeham News: When Qantas announced the Airbus A350-1000 as the winner for project Sunrise over Boeing’s 777-8 December 2019, we did articles about the choice. We found that the A350-1000 could fly the toughest route, Sydney to London but with modifications.

Airbus has since told the press they can now do it with an improved standard A350-1000. We revisit the case to see how “standard” such an A350-1000 is.

A350-1000. Source: QANTAS

Summary
  • The A350-1000 can fly the most challenging project Sunrise route, Sydney to London if it uses QANTAS special ultra long haul flight routings.
  • Airbus has gradually improved the A350-1000 so that it can now fly the route with modest adaptations.

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Did Airbus miss opportunities with Alaska, Southwest?

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

March 22, 2021, © Leeham News: Airbus lost an order from Alaska Airlines, which means the carrier will essentially revert to an all-Boeing fleet.

Alaska Airlines ordered more Boeing 737 MAXes instead of Airbus A321neos. Southwest Airlines appears ready to order the 737-7 MAX instead of Airbus A220-300s. Were these real opportunities? Photo by Boeing.

And despite the apparent high-profile loss of a potential order from Boeing loyalist Southwest Airlines, Airbus is holding its ground in the USA.

Did Airbus miss opportunities to gain ground?

It all depends on how you look at it.

Summary
  • Alaska Airlines chose to eliminate the Airbus A319s and A320s inherited with the 2016 acquisition of Virgin America. It’s not going to retain the orders for A320neos. And it passed on ordering more A321neos when it recently placed a follow-on order for Boeing 737-9s.
  • It looks all but sure Southwest Airlines will pass on ordering the Airbus A220-300 for its sub-150-seat fleet requirement. Boeing looks poised to win a big order from Southwest for the slow-selling 737-7 MAX.
  • Neither outcome, however, was unexpected.

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The A350, Part 10 Project Sunrise Intro

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Mar. 18, 2021, © Leeham News: After assessing the performance of the A350-1000 against the 777-300ER on a trans-Pacific route, we turn our attention to a dedicated A350 variant developed for Qantas’ Project Sunrise.

Summary
  • The holy grail of ultra-long-haul routes;
  • A limited market;
  • A350-1000 “ULR” against 777-8;
  • Reasons for Qantas’ choice.

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