Qatar, Airbus make up and sign $6 billion deal

Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:10pm EST
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By Tim Hepher and Praveen Menon

DUBAI (Reuters) - Qatar Airways placed a $6.5 billion order for Airbus jets on Tuesday, just hours after saying at the Dubai Air Show it had walked away from the deal.

A row over which airline would be first to get the European planemaker's latest jet, a revamped, more fuel-efficient version of its A320 short-haul airliner, nearly scuppered the order, which also included five more Airbus A380 superjumbos, people close to the matter said.

As a result Qatar's final negotiations were turned into a public drama at the airshow with Qatar Airway's chief executive Akbar Al Baker first saying the deal was off, only to return hours later to announce the signing.

"Every deal sometimes gets stuck especially when the lawyers throw the spanner in the wheel. The price was not at all an issue, from the beginning," Al Baker later said.

The eventual deal includes 50 orders for A320neo narrowbody jets worth $4.6 billion, plus options for another 30, and the five-airplane A380 order which doubles Qatar's planned superjumbo fleet, together with options for a further three.

Pratt & Whitney(UTX.N: Quote) won a key engine order for the deal.

But the first sign of trouble at the airshow came when Airbus executives failed to put out a name plate for Al Baker at the scheduled press conference, and then an Airbus spokesman announced the deal had been postponed.

Al Baker, who is known for springing surprises and has often been outspoken about both Airbus and Boeing, then compounded the European jetmaker's embarrassment at a news conference held by Boeing to announce Qatar's acquisition of two Boeing 777 freighters.   Continued...