PARIS, June 26 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