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SINGAPORE: Airbus voiced optimism on Monday about sales of a new A350 freighter after Boeing launched a competing cargo version of its future 777X jetliner to tap into a freight boom.

Airbus launched the freighter version of its A350 wide-body jet last year to address rising air cargo demand and penetrate a profitable part of the jet market dominated by Boeing, which hit back with a 777X freighter launch order from Qatar Airways.

"Yes, you can expect to see more orders for the A350 freighter," Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer said on the eve of the Singapore Airshow, but declined to give a timeline.

Provisional customers for the A350 freighter include Singapore Airlines which could confirm a provisional order to coincide with this week's air show, delegates said.

The airline signed a tentative deal in December to buy seven A350 freighters and become its first major airline operator.

Hopes for recovery in focus at Asia's biggest airshow

But the deal also involves dropping previous orders for 15 A320neo jets and two A350-900 passenger versions. Both Airbus and Boeing have agreed to convert some passenger plane orders in order to secure wins for their new twin-engined freighters.

Scherer declined comment on a dispute with Qatar Airways which has led the Gulf carrier to refuse to consider buying the A350 freighter and back Boeing's 777X cargo version.

It has also placed a provisional order for at least 25 Boeing 737 MAX jets, after Airbus revoked an order for A321neos as part of the same dispute over surface damage to A350 jets.

"There is no additional comment," Scherer said when asked whether the A321neos could be resold to airlines in Asia.

Supply chain

The Airbus executive said he was not fundamentally concerned about supply chain problems when asked whether supplies of Russian titanium could be swept up in any sanctions dispute with the West resulting from tensions over Ukraine.

"Fundamentally, we are not concerned about the structural issue," Scherer said.

Boeing also indicated on Monday it was not concerned about Russian titanium supplies, but said it was keeping a close watch on other industry supply chain pinch points.

Concerns over the Ukraine crisis drove down European shares on Monday, including Airbus which fell 3% and major airlines which fell by as much as 6%.

Both planemakers were speaking ahead of Asia's largest aerospace event, where attendance has been severely hit by coronavirus travel restrictions.

Airbus said it had firmed up orders from two airlines that had previously placed provisional commitments.

These involve an order for 20 A220 small jetliners from leasing company Aviation Capital Group, a subsidiary of Tokyo Century Corp, as well as an order for 28 A320neo jets from Kuwaiti carrier Jazeeera Airways.

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