* Airbus will sell 68 A320-family aircraft to three
* Unveils short-haul version of its A330-300 aimed at China
* Expects China's domestic aviation market to be the largest
within 20 years
BEIJING, Sept 25 Airbus has landed
deals with Chinese companies for almost 70 aircraft worth around
$6 billion, as it increases its footprint in what it expects to
become the largest domestic aviation market.
The European planemaker, which is battling Boeing Co
in a market it sees surpassing the United States by passenger
numbers within 20 years, has also unveiled a "regional" jet
aimed at China. Domestic travel grew almost 10 percent last year
in China, compared with less than 1 percent in the U.S.,
according to the International Air Transport Association.
Airbus, like Boeing, has been working to increase its
chances of winning orders by building a visible presence in
China. It sources parts from state-owned aviation companies, and
assembles four single-aisle, short-range A320 aircraft a month
Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS, has reached an in-principle
agreement to extend the A320 assembly line beyond 2016, after
eventually switch it to the A320neo which runs on a new engine,
President and Chief Executive Fabrice Bergier told Reuters at
the Aviation Expo China 2013 in Beijing on Wednesday.
Demand for A320-family aircraft is buoyant, with around 100
A320neo orders from mainland China, Airbus said last week.
At the exhibition, Airbus announced an order for 13 A320 and
12 A320neo from BOC Aviation, the Singapore-based
aircraft-leasing arm of Bank of China
which in December ordered 50 A320-family aircraft.
Airbus also said it has signed deals with fledgling carriers
Zhejiang Loong Airlines and Qingdao Airlines for 20 and 23
A320-family aircraft respectively, including both the A320 and
A320neo. Zhejiang Loong Airlines expects to begin operations
this year and Qingdao Airlines expects to begin operations next
year. Both deals require government approval before Airbus can
add them to its backlog of over 5,000.
The list price of an A320 is $91.5 million and that of an
A320neo is $100.2 million, meaning the three deals could bag
over $6 billion before industry-common discounts.
Airbus is not just focusing on its smallest aircraft. It has
modified its twin-aisle, long-haul A330-300 to make it optimal
for shorter routes. The "regional" A330-300's operational weight
is 200 tonnes less and yet can seat 30 percent more passengers
on flights of up to 3,000 nautical miles, or half the long-haul
range. It can also offer around 15 percent in savings from lower
fuel burn and maintenance costs, Airbus said at the exhibition.
Airbus expects to sign up its first customer by early 2014,
and hopes to sell "hundreds" over the next 10 years, said
Bregier. It designed the new A330-300 to meet demand in
high-density, short-haul markets such as Southeast Asia, India,
the Middle East and China in particular, he said.
"We are announcing the A330-300 lower weight variant today
in China because here we see strong pent-up demand for efficient
and reliable wide-body aircraft connecting mega cities such as
Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou," Bregier said.
There could be as many as 185 A330-300s in China by 2015,
based on existing fleet numbers and orders. The new variant
could double that figure, said Airbus China President Eric Chen
at the exhibition.