UPDATE 4-Boeing gets U.S. license to talk deals with Iranian airlines

Fri Feb 19, 2016 6:18pm EST
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(Adds detail about General Electric's Iran license)

By Alwyn Scott

Feb 19 (Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Friday that the United States gave it a license to hold talks with airlines in Iran about buying jetliners, but said it would need additional U.S. approval to make sales.

Boeing's license, received on Thursday, marked a step toward catching up with European rival Airbus, which last month agreed to sell Iran 118 planes worth about $27 billion at list prices.

"We have applied for and received a license to assess the current commercial passenger airplane needs of U.S. Government-approved Iranian airlines," Boeing said in a statement. "The license permits us to engage approved airlines to determine their actual fleet requirements."

The U.S. Treasury declined to comment.

Analysts said Boeing faces numerous obstacles in Iran. The country may not be able to afford many planes, and financial backers may balk at funding leases or sales fearing the risk in repossessing aircraft in a bankruptcy.

Iran also faces tough competition from established Middle Eastern carriers such as Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways that offer top-notch service with alcohol, Western movies and Internet access.

"There might be hundreds and hundreds of potential orders, but the realities of establishing a real airline industry in Iran are going to put a brake on those numbers," said Richard Aboulafia, analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.   Continued...