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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Boeing and Airbus lose $40bn in deals from US exit of Iran pact

The main players in the aviation industry are considering their options in light of reimposition of US sanctions

Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear pact threatens new business for several big companies, including Boeing, Airbus and General Electric. AFP/Jason Redmond
Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear pact threatens new business for several big companies, including Boeing, Airbus and General Electric. AFP/Jason Redmond

The US withdrawal from a nuclear accord with Iran slams shut what had been a brief opening for historic aircraft sales by Boeing and Airbus to the Islamic Republic.

President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would seek to reimpose sanctions left little hope that the plane-makers will be able to consummate $40 billion in aircraft deals struck by Iranian carriers during the brief trade thaw. Both companies’ export licenses to Iran will be revoked, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters.

The plane orders, badly needed to upgrade the Islamic Republic’s vintage airliners, would have had the potential to build Tehran into an aviation hub that could better compete with Dubai and Qatar, the region’s aviation super powers.

They also represent a lost opportunity for Chicago-based Boeing and Airbus, which is based in Toulouse, France. The European company is subject to US export restrictions to Iran because more than 10 percent of the parts on its jets originate with American companies such as United Technologies, Rockwell Collins and General Electric.

Airbus said it will “carefully analyse” the implications of the withdrawal from the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic before deciding how to proceed. “This might take some time,” a spokesman for the company said.

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Read more:

Europe ponders next move as Trump rejects ‘defective’ Iran deal

UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain welcome Trump’s exit from Iran nuclear deal

Comment: The only country which stands to lose from a nuclear pull-out is the US

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“We will consult with the government on next steps. As we have throughout this process, we’ll continue to follow the US government’s lead,” Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing vice president, said in a statement.

While the Obama administration had licensed the sales by both Airbus and Boeing to Iran Air in late 2016, the planemakers handled the orders very differently. Airbus recorded the sales in its order backlog and delivered three jets, while its ATR venture shipped eight turboprops.

Boeing never closed its transaction with Iran Air, and downplayed the historic deal’s prospects after Mr Trump took office. In recent months, they had quietly lined up other customers for some of the 777-300ER jetliners once intended for Iran Air this year.

“Looking back, they took very different approaches: Boeing was very conservative in booking and building, and Airbus was very aggressive,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace consultant with Teal Group.

Airbus manufacturer has 95 undelivered planes bound for Iran Air in its backlog. They include 16 crucial orders for its biggest A350 wide-body and 28 for its yet-to-be-delivered A330neo. Another 12 smaller turboprops manufactured by ATR, are still due to be delivered to Iran’s national flag carrier.

Investor reaction was muted since Mr Trump had long been critical of the nuclear pact. Boeing shares dipped less than 1 per cent to $338.49 at the close of trading in New York, while Airbus shares were little changed in Paris.

“We have no Iranian deliveries that are scheduled or a part of the skyline this year, so those have been deferred in line with the US government processes,” Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg told investors on April 25. “If those orders do come to fruition, if we do ultimately deliver airplanes, those represent opportunities for us.”

Other manufacturers said they were reviewing the decision and emphasized their compliance with export controls. In an emailed statement, General Electric said it would “adapt our activities as necessary to conform with these changes in US law.” Siemens said, “We look to governments to set the rules and are waiting for further guidance from the international community.”