Exclusive: Airbus poised to revamp A330 with Rolls-Royce

Thu Jun 26, 2014 5:45pm EDT
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By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus is very close to a decision to upgrade its A330 with engines provided by Rolls-Royce (RR.L: Quote), setting the stage for a bitter new phase in a battle for wide-body jet orders with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, people familiar with the matter said.

The move will strengthen a growing strategic pairing between the European companies, with General Electric (GE.N: Quote) - the main alternative engine supplier on the existing version of the jet - no longer seen as a contender to take part in the $2 billion project, provisionally dubbed "A330neo", they said.

The people, asking not to be named, said the go-ahead with Rolls-Royce as sole supplier for a new version of the A330, offering up to 14-15 percent in fuel savings with the help of new wingtips, remains subject to Airbus Group board approval.

Board members at the Franco-German group are expected to meet in coming days ahead of the July 14-20 Farnborough Airshow, which is usually the showcase for major launch announcements.

However, it remains unclear whether Airbus will officially unveil the new project at the world's premier aviation event, since it usually waits to have orders in the bag first.

Purchasing decisions are expected later this year from some potential key launch customers such as Delta Air Lines (DAL.N: Quote), which is currently replacing Boeing 767 and 747 jets.

Airbus, which has promised investors a decision this year on whether to revamp the 253-295 seat A330 passenger jet, said none had been taken so far.

"We will have a comment when we have a decision. There is no decision yet," a spokesman said.   Continued...

Visitors walk past the logo of Airbus Group during the e-Aircraft Day at the Bordeaux Merignac airport, southwestern France, April 25, 2014.   REUTERS/Regis Duvignau