By Tim Hepher
DUBAI (Reuters) - European turboprop maker ATR said on Tuesday its new airplane orders could outpace deliveries by 50 percent in 2017, bringing its book-to-bill ratio up to around 1.5 from less than 0.5 in 2016.
Chief Executive Christian Scherer said the company, jointly owned by Airbus <AIR.PA> and Italian aerospace group Leonardo <LDOF.MI>, expected to keep deliveries stable at 80 aircraft in 2017 and beyond.
ATR, which competes with Canada's Bombardier <BBDb.TO>, has seen a marked recovery in orders this year after they dropped by more than half to 36 in 2016, their lowest level in seven years.
The company plans to hold production at 80 a year in order to help balance the market, which faces an overhang of second-hand turboprops, Scherer told reporters at the Dubai Airshow.
Scherer said no decision was imminent on whether to launch a larger ATR model with 90-100 seats, on top of its two existing 48- and 78-seat models.
ATR's shareholders are split on the issue, with Leonardo pushing for an all-new model and Airbus resisting rapid new developments while studying upcoming technology.
ATR continues, with the backing of the two shareholders, to study possible changes in its corporate status that would facilitate a new programme development in the event it went ahead, Scherer said.
Scherer, who joined parent company Airbus in 1984, declined to comment on reports that he is seen as a candidate to replace soon-to-retire Airbus sales chief John Leahy.
ATR aims to deliver another two aircraft to Iran by the end of the year after delivering six so far this year under U.S. export licences issued following the lifting of international nuclear-related sanctions in 2016, Scherer said.
Aircraft whose U.S. components make up more than 10 percent of their value need licences from the U.S. Treasury before they can be supplied to Iran under the nuclear deal.
(This story corrects "another eight aircraft" to "another two aircraft," for a cumulative total of eight, in penultimate paragraph.)
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter)