Airbus will provide financial compensation to some buyers of its superjumbo A380 for delays in delivery of the new plane, according to a top executive of the aircraft maker's parent company.
Noel Forgeard, one of the two joint chief executives of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., the aerospace concern that owns 80 percent of Airbus, added in an interview that he expects China's share of worldwide sales by Airbus and other EADS businesses to as much as double by 2012. Airbus's other co-owner is BAE Systems PLC of Britain.
Airbus is the largest of EADS's five business units. Forgeard served as president and chief executive of Airbus before becoming co-chief executive of EADS, together with Thomas Enders, on July 1.
Airbus has had to postpone delivering the A380 by several months because of complications in designing the plane's interior to meet the needs of individual customers. Singapore Airlines is to become the first airline to fly the A380, but not until next November -- about six months later than its original planned date for taking delivery. Another customer, Qantas Airways of Australia, has been outspoken about its unhappiness at the delay in its own A380 order.
Airbus has agreed to compensate some buyers, though not all of them, according to the terms of their individual contracts, Forgeard said. He declined to identify which customers would receive compensation, nor did he give specifics of any financial settlement other than to say that Airbus knows the full amount it is liable to pay.
Forgeard said he believes the delays will not affect Airbus's pursuit of other business with some of these same customers.
Airbus has firm orders or commitments for 159 of the superjumbo planes. Five of them will go to a mainland Chinese carrier, China Southern Airlines, and Forgeard said he foresees a surge in sales of other EADS products, including satellites and civilian helicopters, to China.
"We are great believers in the future of the mainland Chinese market," he said.
Airbus and U.S. rival Boeing Co. are battling for jetliner sales in China, where airlines are expanding vigorously amid rapid deregulation of the country's aviation industry. China accounts for about 5 percent of EADS's global sales. By 2012, Forgeard said, "we could expect China to take as much as 8 percent to 10 percent."
He added that EADS plans to build a technology and research center in Singapore that would be the only one of its kind outside Europe. The center would have an initial cost of "a few million dollars" and a staff of 25 people.
The center's projects would possibly include computer simulations, radar research and repairs of composite materials.