China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. (NYSE: ZNH) announced Wednesday morning that it had signed an agreement with Airbus to purchase 10 A330-300 airplanes that carry a list price of about $227.4 million each. According to the airline’s disclosure statement, the actual price is “significantly lower … because of the substantial price concessions” agreed to by Airbus.
Last week Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) said that China Southern had committed to purchase 50 current-model 737s and 30 of Boeing’s new 737 MAX airplanes. Xiamen Airlines, a unit of China Southern, has also committed to buy 30 new 737 MAX jets in a deal that could be worth more than $10 billion at list prices, if it is confirmed. All things considered, Boeing may have preferred to take a firm order for 10 wide-bodies.
Earlier this month we noted that Airbus has taken net new orders for 127 wide-body planes in 2015, compared with net new orders of 113 for Boeing wide-bodies. Boeing’s single biggest issue here is a lack of new orders for its current model of the 777 twin-engine wide-body. The company has taken orders for just 38 of the planes so far in 2015, against a target of 40 to 60 new orders.
The problem is exacerbated by rock-bottom prices for used 777s. Delta Air Lines said last week that it paid just $7.7 million for a used 777-200ER. Ten years ago that plane cost $170 million new.
Boeing’s real concern is taking orders for the newer model 777-300ER, a significant number of which are expected to come off lease in the next year or so and put even more pressure on sales of newly minted planes. The price decline in Boeing’s stock came on the heels of the Delta announcement, but the real fear among investors is the potential impact on 777-300ER production.
According to Planespotters.net, China Southern currently has 19 A330-300s and 16 A330-200s in its fleet, compared with 16 Boeing 777-200s and just seven Boeing 777-300s. The airline’s fleet of 737s numbers 163, compared with 199 Airbus A320s and A321s.
We should also note that the 787 is a more obvious head-to-head competitor to the A330 than is the larger and longer-range 777.