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Airbus beats Boeing on orders, makes first delivery to Iran

Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders (L) and IranAir Chairman Farhad Parvaresh (R) at the ceremony markng the first delivery of an Airbus A321 to IranAir Reuters/Regis Duvignau

Airbus beat arch-rival Boeing on orders and is catching up on delivery, the French-based planemaker announced on Wednesday, the same day it delivered the first of an order for 100 A321s to Iran in a deal made possible by the end of Western sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Airbus did better than it itself expected on delivering planes in 2016, closing the gap with the US's Boeing, which it outstripped in orders.

It made a record 688 commercial plane deliveries, beating its own target which was raised from 650 to 670 in November, thanks to a surge in December when it delivered 111.

That made 2016 the 14th consecutive year in which the firm has chalked up record deliveries.

Airbus also took a total of 731 net orders, beating Boeing's 668, but down nearly a third from 2015's 1,036.

Delivery figures are of interest to analysts and investors as it is at that stage when manufacturers receive the bulk of payment.

Among the contracts signed in December was an order for 72 A320neo passenger planes from Indian budget airline GoAir.

Saudi airline has placed an order worth 8.6 billion dollars (8.1 billion euros), it was reported on Thursday.

First delivery to Iran

Airbus delivered the first of the Iranian order, which has a list price of about 20 billion dollars (19 billion euros), on Wednesday and marked the event with a ceremony at its factory in Toulouse, south-west France.

"It's a new, magnificent chapter and a great day" for ties between Iran and the EU, said IranAir's chief executive Farhad Parvaresh at the ceremony, adding that the "distance between us caused by political adversities have been narrowed by hard work of the international peace keepers".

Airbus boss Fabrice Bregier also hailed the renewal of ties with Iran, saying the "renaissance of Iran aviation sector is one of the most important developments for our industry for many years".

IranAir has also signed a contract with Boeing, its biggest in 40 years, for the sale of 80 planes for 16.6 billion dollars (15.6 billion euros).

Iran needs 400-500 planes over the next decade, according to the Iranian Civil Aviation Authority.