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AMSTERDAM, April 12 (Reuters) - Airbus airplane sales may remain under pressure for some time as the company works through a record backlog of unfilled orders, but the long-term outlook is strong, the European planemaker's finance director said on Wednesday.
Airbus is predicting a commercial aircraft book-to-bill ratio below 1 for 2017, meaning that it expects fewer orders than deliveries for the first time in eight years as industry orders continue to dwindle after peaking in 2014.
"We are fully booked in the years to come...so it is not a surprise that the book-to-bill could be lower for some time," Harald Wilhelm told a shareholder meeting.
"At the same time we are bringing up the production rates. In the long term the outlook remains very positive," he added, citing robust forecasts for passenger traffic.
Chief Executive Tom Enders said Airbus expected to deliver more than 720 aircraft in 2017, a slightly firmer projection than its official guidance of 'more than 700' deliveries. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)