Bombardier swoops on AirAsia at Silverstone summit

Sun Jul 8, 2012 8:49am EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Canada's Bombardier (BBDb.TO: Quote) is in talks with AirAsia (AIRA.KL: Quote) about a more densely packed 160-seat version of its CSeries jet, in a surprise bid to loosen the stranglehold on Asia's largest low-cost carrier held by European giant Airbus EAD.PA.

AirAsia founder and Formula One boss Tony Fernandes discussed the proposal with Bombardier's chief executive Pierre Beaudoin during preparations for Sunday's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the two company leaders told Reuters on the eve of the Farnborough Airshow.

"We've got Pierre Beaudoin as a guest of mine. He's brought us a very interesting product for a 160-seat Bombardier and we're looking at that," Fernandes said.

Bombardier wants to break into the lower end of the jet market dominated by Airbus and Boeing (BA.N: Quote) but has so far concentrated on appetite for aircraft up to 130 seats. The 160-seater would be a denser configuration of its CS300 aircraft.

Asked how optimistic he was of breaking a record run of Airbus orders by Fernandes, Beaudoin told Reuters, "He had no choice before, but now he has a better product to look at."

But, speaking to Reuters in his Caterham team motorhome in the rainy Silverstone paddock, Fernandes said talks were also continuing with Airbus over the purchase of at least 50 more A320 jets as the two sporting and aerospace events overlap.

"Whether we can finalize it by Farnborough I'm not sure because there's quite a lot to be done. Airbus is coming to see me…. The clock's against them to try... and I've got to get board approval," Fernandes said.

The potential new $4 billion Airbus order, first reported by Reuters in May, concerns the current edition of the 150-seat A320. AirAsia is interested in more of the jets as it waits for the more efficient A320neo which is being developed for 2015. It placed a record 200-jet order for these last year.   Continued...