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Airbus Stops Work on Freight Version of A380 Superjumbo

Financially troubled European airplane manufacturer Airbus has stopped work on the freight version of its new A380 superjumbo so it can focus more on the troubled passenger version of the aircraft, a spokesman for its parent company said Thursday.

"The work on the freight version of the A380 has just been temporarily cut off ... so that all capacities can be directed at the A380 passenger version," said Michael Hauger, spokesman for the European Aeronautic Defence & Space, in a telephone call from Munich.

Last week, United Parcel Service postponed taking delivery on the A380 freight version.

It was the last remaining customer the freight-liner, and said it would decide later this year whether to move ahead with a plan to purchase 10 of the jets or cancel the order completely.

UPS originally ordered the 10 jets in January 2005, with options to buy 10 more in a deal valued at roughly $2.8 billion at list prices.

Airbus spokeswoman Ann de Crozals said the decision to postpone work on the A380F came after the UPS decision.

"Following the rescheduling with UPS, development work on the A380F has been interrupted but the program is still ongoing," de Crozals said. "It's not a decision to stop the program."

There is a new development schedule for the freight version A380F, Hauger said, adding that the company believers there is a sales potential for 400 models of the A380 freight aircraft in the next 20 years.

Toulouse, France-based Airbus is struggling to survive the crippling fallout from a two-year delay to the A380 and the weaker U.S. dollar -- in which the planes are priced.

Airbus said Wednesday it would shed 4,300 jobs in France, 3,700 in Germany, 1,600 in Britain and 400 in Spain over four years.

De Crozals said no date had been set for work to resume on the freight version of the aircraft.

FedEx canceled its order for 10 A380s in November, saying Airbus's production problems were threatening its international expansion plans. Instead, it ordered 15 Boeing 777 freighters and options for 15 more in a deal valued at about $3.5 billion at list prices.

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