PARIS Airbus looks set to post sales of around 900 aircraft for 2012 and exceed its target of 580 deliveries after a record month in December, a Reuters analysis of industry figures shows.
A late surge in both orders and deliveries by the European firm was not enough to prevent Boeing regaining aviation's top spot in both sales and deliveries for 2012, but will likely put EADS EAD.PA unit Airbus ahead of its own targets.
Airbus and Boeing (BA.N) compete fiercely for control of the $100 billion jetliner market.
The European company had already conceded defeat as Boeing caught up with demand for revamped narrow body jets in 2012, following a record lead by Airbus in the previous year.
But industry sources have said Airbus internally mounted a concerted effort to keep a market share of 40 percent, considered the lowest sustainable share in a duopoly such as the one it enjoys with Boeing, and is confident of reaching this.
Airbus declined to comment ahead of an annual presentation in Toulouse on January 17.
Boeing earlier reported 1,339 plane orders in 2012, its best result since 2007.
Airbus would need to have sold around 900 aircraft in 2012 to reach its market share goal, suggesting as yet unreported orders for some 180 aircraft.
The figure tallies with market indications of brisk activity in December, though this was not enough to close the gap between Airbus and its U.S. rival for the year as a whole.
Airbus had sold 646 planes by the end of November and reported a further 75 during December, though the rest of that month's tally has not yet been published.
Airbus officially targets 650 orders for 2012.
Although Airbus exceeded its overall gross order target for 2012, it fell short of a specific target of 30 orders for the A380 superjumbo.
Questions also remain over its ability to reach an unpublished target, first reported by Reuters, of 300 current-generation A320s as airlines prefer newer fuel-saving models.
Deliveries also quickened sharply in December due to a backlog of planes, including A380 superjumbos held back for repairs following wing cracks identified early in 2012.
Based on third-party estimates and deliveries announced during December but not yet included in the official tally, Airbus looks likely to have exceeded its previous monthly record of 61 and could slightly exceed its 2012 target of 580 aircraft.
Aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton said Airbus was expected to have delivered around 580 aircraft in 2012.
Boeing earlier reported 601 deliveries in 2012 including 15 in a single 24-hour period in December, putting it on course to regain the crown as the world's largest plane maker for the first time in a decade.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter)