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Airbus plane orders down in 1st quarter, profits up

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PARIS - Airbus Group said Tuesday that orders for its jets slumped in the first quarter, but profits rose and it hopes to put its A350 long-range jet into service by the end of the year.

The European plane maker, Boeing's chief rival, said in a statement that it took in 103 orders in the quarter, worth 21.1 billion euros (US$28.9 billion). That is down from 410 orders in the first quarter of 2013.

CEO Tom Enders said Airbus isn't changing its 2014 outlook, which predicts a stable year compared to 2013. But he said the company faces "many challenges" and is focusing on "improvement and restructuring plans."

The group, formerly known as EADS, confirmed plans for 5,800 job cuts as it restructures its defence and space business, Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm said.

The company saw overall sales up 5 per cent to 12.6 billion euros in the first quarter, from 12.1 billion euros in the same quarter a year ago. Profits nearly doubled to 439 million euros in the quarter.

Aircraft deliveries were down slightly in the quarter to 141 from 144 last year.

Airbus is pinning hopes on success for the A350, a competitor to Boeing's 787, and said Tuesday the A350 should complete certification in the third quarter. After years of delays and cost overruns, Wilhelm said the program is in a "critical phase."

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