Norwegian Air scraps $14.8b deal for Boeing's 737 Max, 787 aircraft

OSLO • Norwegian Air Shuttle has notified Boeing that it is terminating purchase agreements for all 97 of its remaining jets on order with the United States planemaker.

The decision covers 92 of Boeing's 737 Max planes, five 787 Dreamliners and a related maintenance pact, Norwegian said in a statement on Monday. The airline, which is restructuring after the Covid-19 pandemic decimated trans-Atlantic travel, said it also filed a legal claim seeking the return of pre-delivery payments for the jets plus compensation tied to the Max's 15-month grounding.

Talks with Boeing have "not led to an agreement with a reasonable compensation", Norwegian said in the statement. The aircraft are worth at least US$10.6 billion (S$14.8 billion) based on list prices before customary discounts.

The termination roils Boeing's relationship with one of the company's largest customers in Europe, even if Norwegian's financial troubles had cast doubt on its ability to take all the planes.

Norwegian converted debt to equity and sold new shares last month to get access to government loan guarantees in its home market, saving it from collapse.

"We are not going to comment on commercial discussions with our customers," Boeing said in a statement. "Norwegian Air Shuttle is a longstanding Boeing customer. As with many operators dealing with a very challenging time, we are working on a path forward."

Boeing fell 1 per cent to US$192.50 in late trading in New York. The shares surged 14 per cent during the regular session as Boeing and US officials conducted the first test flight in a process to regain certification for the Max from the Federal Aviation Administration. The single-aisle workhorse has been grounded since March last year, following two deadly crashes.

As cash-strapped carriers seek to halt or postpone jetliner deals, Boeing is more vulnerable to single-aisle cancellations than Airbus. Buyers typically have the right to walk away from deliveries that have been delayed more than a year without risk of penalties. Boeing has recorded cancellations for 313 Max planes so far this year.

Kuwaiti lessor Alafco Aviation Lease and Finance Co sued Boeing earlier this year, seeking to scrap an order for 40 Max planes and reclaim the US$336 million it said it had paid in advance.

"Boeing is having to address high pressure from customers seeking progress payments to be returned on the Max," Bernstein analyst Douglas Harned said of the Alafco litigation in a report last Friday. "Even though Boeing may have legal arguments to defend itself, we expect Boeing to settle, as we do not believe it would be productive for Boeing to enter into public lawsuits related to Max deliveries."

BLOOMBERG

 
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2020, with the headline 'Norwegian Air scraps $14.8b deal for Boeing's 737 Max, 787 aircraft'. Print Edition | Subscribe