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Forget Boeing and Airbus: Embraer Was the Real Winner at Farnborough

By Adam Levine-Weinberg - Jul 20, 2016 at 11:20AM

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Embraer didn't sell nearly as many planes as Boeing or Airbus at the Farnborough Airshow, but it still had a better week than either of its larger rivals.

In the aerospace market, Boeing (BA 3.30%) and Airbus (EADSY 2.52%) get most of the attention -- and for good reason.

Last year, Boeing's commercial jet division delivered 762 airplanes, bringing in $66.0 billion of revenue. Airbus wasn't far behind, with 635 commercial aircraft deliveries, generating €45.9 billion of revenue (equivalent to more than $50 billion). Meanwhile, third-place Embraer (ERJ 6.01%) trailed far behind the industry leaders, with 101 commercial jet deliveries and commercial aviation revenue of $3.3 billion.

Embraer can't match the prolific sales of Airbus and Boeing. Image source: Airbus.

Nevertheless, Embraer arguably had a better week than either of its larger rivals at the recent Farnborough Airshow. Embraer didn't sell a huge number of jets, but it had good things to report across all three of its main business segments.

Boeing and Airbus had a mediocre week

In 2016, Boeing and Airbus didn't generate the kind of massive order volume typically seen at the biennial Paris and Farnborough air shows in recent years. The biggest order of the week was a firm order for 100 A321neos from AirAsia. But given that AirAsia already had more than 300 airplanes on order with Airbus -- and doesn't expect to incorporate the last of them into its fleet until at least 2028 -- this new order doesn't seem very meaningful.

To make matters worse, Airbus was the victim of an embarrassing leak just ahead of an investor meeting during the air show. As a result, it was forced to admit that it plans to slash production of its slow-selling A380 jumbo-jet from 27 units last year to just 12 per year by 2018.

Meanwhile, Boeing simply didn't get many firm orders last week. While the company claims that it received 182 orders and commitments at Farnborough, only 20 of those were new firm orders. The rest had either already been announced (typically as orders from unidentified customers) or represented non-binding agreements.

Embraer bags a few more orders

Embraer's sales activity last week was also relatively modest. The company announced a firm order for four current-generation E190s from aircraft lessor Nordic Aviation Capital. It also received a firm order for five next-gen E190-E2 aircraft from Indonesian regional airline Kalstar. That order includes an additional five options.

Embraer also signed a letter of intent for 10 E195-E2s with Arkia Israeli Airlines. Arkia expects to place a firm order for six aircraft while receiving purchase rights for another four. This deal brought the total backlog for E2-series aircraft to a healthy 272 firm orders and 398 options, purchase rights, and letters of intent ahead of an expected early 2018 entry into service.

While Embraer didn't close any massive orders last week, it is still well positioned to sell as many planes as it delivers in 2016. (By contrast, Airbus and Boeing are in danger of missing that goal.)

Thus far, Embraer has sold 39 planes this year, including the firm orders announced last week and a 30-plane firm order from Alaska Air that was announced in April. The Arkia letter of intent would raise the total to 45 planes when it is finalized. Embraer could also get dozens of firm orders from China later this year, perhaps in conjunction with Brazilian interim President Michel Temer's planned state visit to China in September.

Furthermore, Embraer displayed the first E190-E2 test aircraft at the Farnborough Airshow, after it was able to move up the aircraft's first test flight by a couple of months to late May. This helped Embraer drum up interest in its newest model, which could turn into more orders down the road.

Embraer showed off its new E190-E2 jet at the Farnborough Airshow. Image source: Embraer.

Good news from the other segments, too

Embraer also had good news to report for its executive aviation and defense segments. On the executive jet side, Embraer displayed its Legacy 500 business jet, which became available just two years ago.

During the air show, Embraer also announced that the Legacy 450 (an even newer executive jet model) has received certification for an extended range of 2,904 nautical miles, up from 2,575 nautical miles previously. This gives it full transcontinental range within the U.S. and also enables West Coast-Hawaii flights.

Moving to the defense segment, Embraer displayed its new KC-390 multirole tanker/transport aircraft for the first time at Farnborough. This allowed it to show off the new model to about 20 international delegations as it looks to round up more orders outside of Brazil. While the prototype is overseas, it will be taken on tour to several other countries that have expressed interest in buying KC-390s.

Embraer also announced an expanded partnership with Boeing to market and support the KC-390. Given Boeing's much larger global scale and deep experience supporting military aircraft, this agreement should help Embraer sell more KC-390s in the long run.

Embraer may not have sold as many aircraft as Airbus or Boeing last week, but it made steady progress in building its backlog and introduced new products from all three divisions of the company to potential buyers. Meanwhile, it wasn't hit with any embarrassing headlines like Airbus' hastily announced A380 rate cut. That just might make Embraer the real winner of the Farnborough Airshow.

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