By Alwyn Scott
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co <BA.N> said on Tuesday that it sees no business case for offering an extended-range version of its largest 737 jet, the forthcoming 737 MAX 9, to compete with a long-range plane that rival Airbus <AIR.PA> launched on Tuesday.
Earlier Tuesday, Airbus released 2014 sales and production figures showing it beat Boeing on orders, but lost on the number of planes actually delivered.
Airbus also said it had won 30 orders for an extended range version of the A321neo from lessor Air Lease Corp <AL.N>. The A321neo is outselling Boeing's competing 737 MAX 9.
The A321neo is larger and with longer range, there's little Boeing can do to improve the MAX 9's appeal, said Scott Hamilton, analyst at consulting firm Leeham Co.
"The 737 MAX 9 is markedly inferior doing an apples-to-apples comparison," Hamilton said.
Boeing said both its existing 737-900 jet and the MAX 9 exceed the A321's range so the long-range Airbus plane will simply catch up with what Boeing already offers. The A321 seats 185 passengers in a typical two-class configuration, versus 180 for the 737 MAX 9.
A321neo sales stand at 755 versus 286 for the MAX 9.
Boeing said it doubts Airbus' market projections the longer-range plane, which aims to fill a gap left by the out-of-production Boeing 757. A market for 1,000 airplanes of that size is "frankly a little bit laughable," Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president of marketing, said on a call with reporters.
"But it's a market space we're looking at," added John Wojick, senior vice president of global sales and marketing.
Boeing plans to replace the 737 MAX by 2030 with a carbon-composite airplane that will likely be larger. In Hamilton's view, that means "Boeing has basically conceded that they will be second fiddle in the single aisle market sector for 15 years."
He sees the A321 market including replacement of 757s, of which 1,050 were built, along with new routes for that type of aircraft, and replacement of MAX 9s and older A321s.
Airbus said on Tuesday it received net orders of 1,456, which topped Boeing's tally of 1,432 net orders.
Wojick said Boeing aims to beat Airbus on aircraft deliveries, since that generates revenue and cash that investors want.
Boeing delivered 485 of its 737s last year, compared with 490 of Airbus' competing A320s.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Christian Plumb)