Airbus, Boeing mask identity of big buyers amid Trump minefield ignited by trade war with China
LONDON Airbus and Boeing usually don’t miss a chance to celebrate their biggest orders at the annual air shows — typically, top executives will trumpet them loudly at signing ceremonies staffed with a phalanx of smiling flight attendants.
Not this year. On the first three days at the Farnborough expo taking place outside London, Airbus has cloaked the identity of the customer behind US$24.4 billion in orders at list prices. Boeing followed suit on Thursday for deals struck for planes valued at US$11 billion based before customary discounts.
Why? Airbus’s sales chief points the finger at U.S. President Donald Trump, whose trade war with China has created a minefield for global companies that do business in both countries.
“The world today is governed by the tweets we receive every morning from one side of the Atlantic,” Eric Schulz, the top salesman at the France-based plane maker, said at an investor presentation on Wednesday. “So, you know that that is putting a lot of pressure within the airlines, it’s putting a lot of pressure within the governments.”
Some customers, especially in Asia, have asked Airbus “not to fuel the fire,” Schulz said.
Some of the hidden orders came from customers in China, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing non-public information. Trump is locked in a trade war with the U.S.’s biggest rival for global economic dominance.
“I would prefer to have them disclosed, but at the end of the day ... the money is in the bank,” Schulz said. “And so disclosed, undisclosed, that doesn’t make a lot of difference. The orders is there, that’s it.”