Trump exit from Iran nuclear pact halts $53 billion Boeing, Airbus deals

US President Donald Trump's announcement left little hope that Boeing Co and Airbus SE will be able to consummate US$40 billion (S$53.62 billion) in aircraft deals.
US President Donald Trump's announcement left little hope that Boeing Co and Airbus SE will be able to consummate US$40 billion (S$53.62 billion) in aircraft deals.PHOTO: REUTERS

CHICAGO (BLOOMBERG) - The US withdrawal from a nuclear accord with Iran slams shut what had been a brief opening for historic aircraft sales by Boeing Co and Airbus SE to the Islamic Republic.

President Donald Trump's announcement that the US would seek to reimpose sanctions left little hope that the plane-making duopolists will be able to consummate US$40 billion (S$53.62 billion) in aircraft deals struck by Iranian carriers during the brief trade thaw.

Both companies' export licences to Iran will be revoked, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters.

The plane orders, badly needed to upgrade the Islamic Republic's museum-vintage airliners, would have had the potential to build Teheran into an aviation hub that could better compete with Dubai and Qatar, the region's aviation super powers.

They also represent a lost opportunity for Chicago-based Boeing and Toulouse, France-based Airbus.

The European plane-maker is subject to US export restrictions to Iran because more than 10 per cent of the parts on its jets originate with US companies such as United Technologies Corp, Rockwell Collins Inc and General Electric Co.

Airbus said it will "carefully analyse" the implications of the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic before deciding how to proceed.

"This might take some time, " a spokesman for the company said by e-mail.

"We will consult with the US government on next steps. As we have throughout this process, we'll continue to follow the US government's lead," Mr Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing vice-president, said in a statement.

 
 
 

While the Obama administration had licensed the sales by both Airbus and Boeing to Iran Air in late 2016, the plane-makers handled the orders very differently.

Airbus recorded the sales in its order backlog and delivered three jets, while its ATR venture shipped eight turboprops.

Boeing never closed its transaction with Iran Air, and downplayed the historic deal's prospects after Mr Trump took office.

In recent months, the plane-maker had quietly lined up other customers for some of the 777-300ER jetliners once intended for Iran Air this year.

"Looking back, they took very different approaches: Boeing was very conservative in booking and building, and Airbus was very aggressive," said Mr Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace consultant with Teal Group.

Airbus has 95 undelivered planes bound for Iran Air in its backlog. They include 16 crucial orders for its biggest A350 wide-body and 28 for its yet-to-be-delivered A330neo.

Another 12 smaller turboprops manufactured by ATR are still due to be delivered to Iran's national flag carrier.

Investor reaction was muted since Mr Trump had long been critical of the nuclear pact.

Boeing shares dipped less than 1 per cent to US$338.49 at the close of trading in New York, while Airbus shares were little changed in Paris.

"We have no Iranian deliveries that are scheduled or a part of the skyline this year, so those have been deferred in line with the US government processes," Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told investors on April 25.

"If those orders do come to fruition, if we do ultimately deliver airplanes, those represent opportunities for us."

Other manufacturers said they were reviewing the US decision and emphasised their compliance with export controls.

In an e-mailed statement, General Electric Co. said it would "adapt our activities as necessary to conform with these changes in US law".

Siemens AG said, "we look to governments to set the rules and are waiting for further guidance from the international community."