Airbus nears exclusive deal with Rolls to revamp A330 -sources

PARIS, June 26 Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:12pm EDT

PARIS, June 26 (Reuters) - Airbus is very close to a decision to upgrade its A330 with engines provided by Rolls-Royce, setting the stage for a bitter new phase in the battle for wide-body jet orders with Boeing's 787, people familiar with the matter said.

The move will strengthen a growing strategic pairing between the European companies, with General Electric, 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 to build a revamped "A330neo", they said.

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

Rolls-Royce said it was "not aware" of a final decision having been reached. GE declined to comment on the commercial talks, which have been going on for some months.

Airbus, which has promised a decision on whether to revamp the 253-295 seat A330 passenger jet before the end of the year, 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. (Reporting by Tim Hepher, Alwyn Scott; Editing by Laurence Frost)

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