By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus (AIR.PA) has been seeking agreements with leasing companies for several weeks to try to reduce the gap between its orders and competitor Boeing (BA.N), while industry experts have a slightly more optimistic view of 2018 shipments after the actions took a beating.

The outcome of recent lease talks could impact a tighter-than-expected race in 2018, although Airbus is relying on a recent wave of orders for a recent Canadian aircraft program. acquired and delays Boeing on a like-for-like basis.

Last-minute wave of orders complicates data puzzle expected by investors as uncertainty persists about Airbus' ability to meet its critical aircraft delivery target for 2018 – a reliable profit guide and barometer tensions in the supply chain.

Industry sources said that Airbus would probably not reach the target of the 800 aircraft (782 excluding the Canadian A220), but others said that it would not be possible to meet the target of 800 aircraft. Airbus could still surprise after the workers delivered jet planes late December 31 that had not been planned.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Airbus had delivered more than 790 aircraft and fewer than 800 aircraft in 2018.

Airbus shares rebounded 3% on Friday after losing as much as 7.9% Thursday due to doubts about deliveries and what dealers have described as a possible trading error.

In a message to staff for the New Year, the designated Chief Planning Officer and Chief Executive Officer, Guillaume Faury, appeared optimistic in 2018, but warned that industrial execution and quality needed to be done. improve.

Even if the official data will not be announced for a few days, "our entire team deserves great congratulations," he said.

Airbus is scheduled to announce its commercial data on Jan. 11, but without the fanfare of an annual press conference that featured for years the former outspoken sales leader, John Leahy, as the company set about the communication before the publication of its full results on 14 February.

In the race for new orders, the Irish leasing company SMBC Aviation was in talks with Airbus in the latter part of 2018 and was considering expanding its fleet of narrow-body vehicles by several dozen jets, industry sources said.

SMBC Aviation and Airbus declined to comment.

Airbus would also be looking for a company in China, where it has entered into an agreement with the ICBC lessor for 80 jet planes.

An interim order was announced at the Farnborough Air Show last July but the name of the buyer was never officially revealed and the order is not yet in the Airbus records.

People familiar with the deal then partnered with ICBC Leasing, one of China's fastest growing leasing companies.

A similar agreement on 100 aircraft from Chinese lessor Avolon, which had been kept secret under conditions similar to those expected by the sector, is waiting to see how trade tensions between China and the United States will be played out, was confirmed in December. .

Both Airbus and Boeing generally look to leasing companies to stay afloat when economic concerns deter airlines, but financiers who now control about half of the world fleet carefully choose their moment to take advantage of the largest discounts .

Airbus closed November with 380 net orders for 2018, to which it has since added 100 orders from Avolon and two contracts from the United States for a total of 120 A220 aircraft. Boeing closed the month of November with 690 net orders and has not announced any new firm deals since.

The American company publishes its data on January 8th.

(Report by Tim Hepher, edited by Keith Weir and Mark Potter)