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Airbus eyes 'smooth' transition for A330 production

FARNBOROUGH England (Reuters) - Airbus said it would have a "smooth" transition from the A330 jet to a new, updated version of the twin-aisle plane after concerns over production rates hit its shares this week.

"This transition for us is much shorter than others. I didn't say we would stay at 10 (planes per month) but didn't say we would fall below that either," Fabrice Bregier, the chief executive of the planemaker told a news conference at the Farnborough Airshow on Thursday.

Shares in Airbus have fallen 3.4 percent over the past week and were down 0.3 percent on Thursday.

"We believe actual output will fall from the 10 per month currently as transition to the new aircraft takes place," Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Andy Chambers wrote in a research note on Thursday.

Bregier said the group would probably increase production for the smaller A320 family of planes from the 46 per month it hopes to achieve in 2016 although it could not say when or to what level.

He was speaking as Airbus said it garnered total orders and commitments during the Farnborough Airshow for 496 aircraft, including 121 for the upgraded A330neo which it launched on Monday.

Rival Boeing said on its website it had reached 783 net orders for the year to date, which implies a total of 134 firm orders and 68 provisional orders at Farnborough.

That means Boeing still leads in orders this year, as the Airbus' total is now 648 for 2014.

Concerns about a bubble in airline orders have led analysts and industry watchers to question whether some orders will be canceled or delayed, and dampened hopes for much business ahead of this week's air show.

"With 500 aircraft ordered or committed, we cannot say that the market is weaker," Bregier said. He said it was the best Farnborough ever for the company.

Also at the conference, Airbus said it expects to win at least one order from the Middle East for the A330neo this year.

"I certainly see a home for the A330neo in the Middle East," sales chief John Leahy said when asked whether an airline such as Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways could be interested in the jet.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan, Tim Hepher and Cyril Altmeyer; editing by Jason Neely)

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