Airbus to order more than 5% of parts for A350 from Japan

by Masumi Suga


Airbus SAS, the world’s largest commercial plane maker, plans to order more than 5 percent of parts and material for its new A350 jetliner from suppliers in Japan, seeking a foothold in a market dominated by Boeing Co.

Airbus is in talks with Teijin Ltd., Toray Industries Inc. and other potential suppliers for the 300-seat plane, Executive Vice President Kiran Rao said in an interview in Tokyo last week. Contracts may be signed with at least 22 suppliers, he added. The A350 may have the most Japanese-made parts among Airbus planes.

Making more A350 parts in Japan may help France-based Airbus win more orders from airlines in Asia’s biggest air passenger market after China. Boeing, with an 80 percent market share, is using Japanese suppliers for more than a third of the parts for its competing 787 Dreamliner.

“Since Japanese makers of heavy machinery are busy with the Boeing 787 project, material makers such as Toray and Teijin are likely to be among the main contractors for the A350,” said Yasuhiro Matsumoto, an analyst at Shinsei Securities Co. in Tokyo. “Airbus is increasing its reliance on suppliers in Japan because it knows Japanese suppliers are strong in technology.”

Airbus, which is building a factory in China for lightweight parts for the A350, aims to strengthen production tieups in Japan to win orders from customers that include Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co.

Demand for air travel is rising in Asia as economic growth in the region encourages more people to fly on work and holidays.

“Japan is a very important market in terms of technology, production, cooperation and sales,” Rao said during a seminar on the A380 in Tokyo. “We’re keen to improve relations with Japan.”

Airbus, facing cost escalations and delays on its A380 superjumbo, is also turning to suppliers in Asia to limit expenses on the A350 XWB.

The company said it will buy 5 percent of the A350’s fuselage parts from China and build a factory in the northeastern city of Harbin. The agreement with China’s National Development & Reform Commission on Nov. 27 came a day after Airbus won an order from China’s airlines for 160 planes valued at about $17 billion.

Aircraft purchases from China are forecast to reach $289 billion over two decades. Airbus has awarded about $4.6 billion in contracts to 21 Japanese companies for the A380, which in October overtook Boeing’s 747 as the world’s largest aircraft. Japan represents about 5 percent of work on the jet, Rao said.

Toray, the world’s largest provider of carbon fiber, and the Teijin unit Toho Tenax Co. each supply half of the A380’s needs for the lightweight reinforced material used to build components such as tails and support beams for the jet’s upper level. Jamco Corp. produces lavatories and carbon fiber cross-beams, while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. handles cargo doors.

Still, Japanese suppliers have bigger roles in building Chicago-based Boeing’s planes. Mitsubishi Heavy, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. are among risk-sharing companies in the Dreamliner project, together building 35 percent of the plane’s parts. It is scheduled to enter service as early as next November.

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