China orders Airbus jets, factory agreement looms
By Tim Hepher and Julien Ponthus
PARIS (Reuters) - China placed a landmark order on Tuesday for dozens of wide-body jets from Airbus in a multi-billion-dollar deal that paves the way for a second European aircraft plant in the world's fastest-growing aviation market.
The deal, signed during a visit to France by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, includes a definitive purchase of 45 A330 aircraft, worth at least $11 billion at list prices, plus plans for a possible further 30 worth about $250 million each.
It was signed during a ceremony watched by business leaders and reporters at the French prime minister's office.
If the second part of the purchase is completed, the value of the contract could rise to $18 billion.
Sources familiar with the discussions had told Reuters last week that Beijing may purchase around 50-70 of wide-body jets in a breakthrough planes-for-investment deal with China.
Airbus has been negotiating for about 18 months to establish a cabin-completion center for wide-body aircraft in China alongside its existing final assembly plant for smaller A320 jets at the northern port city of Tianjin.
Fabrice Bregier, chief executive of the planemaking unit of Airbus Group (AIR.PA: Quote), said Airbus would press ahead with the project, which is expected to cost around 150 million euros.
"We are going to launch the project. I think we have a good base. We hope to have more orders in the future, but it's a project which makes a lot of sense and which gives us an advantage against our competition," Bregier told Reuters. Continued...