Will Boeing Lose $1.9 Trillion, and This Major Market, to Airbus?

With $1.9 trillion on the line, who will win the battle for the Asia-Pacific market?

Feb 16, 2014 at 10:00AM

Boeing Completes 737 MAX 8 Firm Configuration. Photo: Boeing. 

On Feb. 9, Boeing (NYSE:BA) released its 20-year market forecast for the Asia-Pacific region. The good news is the 20-year market for new airplanes is valued at $1.9 trillion. The bad news is Boeing faces stiff competition from its chief rival, European Aeronautical Defense and Space's (NASDAQOTH:EADSY) Airbus. Here's what else you need to know.

When giants fight
In it's long-term market report, Boeing states, "During the next 20 years, nearly half of the world's air traffic growth will be driven by travel to, from, or within the Asia Pacific region." For Asia-Pacific airlines, that growth equates to 12,820 new airplanes, valued at $1.9 trillion. That adds up to 36% of the world's new airplane deliveries over the next 20 years.


A320neo BOC. Photo: Airbus.

Further, the demand will be highest for single-aisle airplanes, like Boeing's 737 MAX and Airbus' A320neo. The good news is last year, Boeing delivered a record 143 planes to China; the bad news is Airbus still has the lead when it comes to market share and orders, in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to Airbus' Asia-Pacific Market update, In 2013, Airbus' net market share in the Asia-Pacific region was 82%, compared with Boeing's 18%. Further, when it comes to single-aisle airplane orders and customers in that region, Airbus' A320neo had 12 customers, with 912 orders, while Boeing's 737 Max had 3 identified customers, with 255 orders -- not exactly the best news for Boeing. 

Airbus vs. Boeing
Airbus' 2013 Asia-Pacific lead over Boeing's is impressive, but CNN reports that when it comes to actual deliveries to the region, Airbus' deliveries were not significantly higher than Boeing's. However, CNN also reports that Airbus' Asia-Pacific backlog is 1,740 planes, while Boeing's is "around 1,000" planes. Of course, that doesn't mean things can't change. According to CNN, David Steward, aviation analyst and vice president of ICF International, said: "I firmly believe that these things tend to balance themselves out and that one year Airbus will have a good year, and some years Boeing is well ahead. It's all about timing in terms of where they are in their product cycles." 


Airbus A320neo CFM V08. Photo: Airbus.

Still, Airbus has made significant improvements when it comes to global market share. According to the Centre for Aviation, in 1995, Airbus' world market share was 18%, and Boeing's was 82%. In 2013, Airbus' world market share was 53%, and Boeing's was 47%.  True, over the past decade, the two companies have gone back and forth when it comes to market-share lead, but the fact that Airbus has improved from 18% to 53% is impressive -- and possibly concerning for Boeing.

What to watch
Both Boeing, and Airbus stand to make a significant amount over the next 20 years. However, for investors, one area to watch is the Asia-Pacific region. We're talking about a considerable amount in $1.9 trillion, and my bet is that both companies will be fiercely competitive when it comes to sales, and market share. In 2013, Airbus won, but that doesn't mean that can't change in the future. Conversely, the other thing to watch is actual deliveries to the region. Orders and backlog are important, but only if a company can deliver. Consequently, if either company starts to show signs of failure to deliver, or continued erosion of market share, you might want to take a closer look at what's going on and re-evaluate your holdings.

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