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Airbus Unveils $40 Billion in Orders at Paris Air Show

Airbus unveiled over $40 billion of orders or pledges on Monday, with a third of the business going to its A350 XWB program, giving it a much-needed lift in its battle against Boeing.

Boosted by fast-growing hubs in the Middle East, the European group used the opening day of the Paris air show to unveil a firmed-up $17 billion sale to Qatar Airways and to show it had beaten off a Boeing challenge to a $10 billion order from U.S. Airways .

Including orders from those two airlines and Kuwaiti aircraft financing company ALAFCO, Airbus clinched a total of 114 deals for the A350 XWB -- a plane vital to its hopes of catching up with Boeing and its hot-selling 787.

Qatar ordered 80 of the A350 XWB and added three of the A380 superjumbos to its shopping list, as well.

Qatar will be the first airline to get the A350 in 2013, Airbus President Louis Gallois told a news conference.

Rolls-Royce, the only manufacturer planning to supply an engine for the A350, said the Qatar order for 20 A350-800s, 40 A350-900s and 20 A350-1000s would mean sales of engines and support worth $5.6 billion at list prices, its biggest ever civil engine deal.

Superjumbo Boost

Dubai-based Emirates signed a tentative deal for eight more of the hefty A380, a deal worth more than $3 billion that will take its total to 56 of the towering double-deckers.

The A380 is the other key focus for Airbus, as it looks to make up for the costly delays in the program that have hurt the planemaker's reputation with customers.

Ministers from the four European countries in which Airbus has factories said after meeting at the air show that the delivery of the A380 would "a major step towards overcoming the difficulties" in the delayed superjumbo program.

To have Emirates back in a buying mood is important, because the airline is the biggest A380 customer and is also on the hunt for up to 100 mid-sized planes.

U.S. Airways, which had committed to 20 of an earlier proposed version of the A350, confirmed it would take 22 of the latest version, the XWB ("Xtra Wide Body"), instead.

Adding 10 twin-aisle A330s and 60 single-aisle A320s to the order was the surprise of the show so far.

Lessor GECAS announced deals with both planemakers, taking 60 A320s from Airbus worth $4.2 billion at list prices and six 777 freighters from Boeing worth $1.4 billion.

Boeing also sold 40 single-aisle 737s to Indonesia's Lion Air, though the deal had already appeared in Boeing's books as an unidentified buyer.

300 Planes

Analysts expect deals for at least 300 planes at the world's largest and oldest air show, which runs until June 24.

Traditionally the bulk of business is announced in the first three days.

Boeing entered the air show comfortably ahead in orders for the year at 417 versus 201 for Airbus as of the end of May.

This week it is expected to announce an order for 50 787s worth at least $5 billion from International Lease Finance Corp. (ILFC), a unit of insurance company American International Group .

Regional airliner makers Bombardier of Canada and Brazil's Embraer do battle in the market for smaller, regional airliners, and were also in the news.

Embraer announced sales to Japan Airlines and Germany's Lufthansa which it said could top $3 billion if fully carried out.

Bombardier unveiled plans to invest $100 million in developing China's ARJ21-900 regional jet due in 2011 under a memorandum of understanding signed with China Aviation Industry.

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