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By Tim Hepher
FARNBOROUGH, England, July 15 Airbus has clinched a deal with Malaysia's AirAsia for 50 A330neo jets worth at least $12 billion at list prices, making it the first airline to sign up for the newly launched wide-body jet, people familiar with the matter said.
The deal, which is due to be announced at the Farnborough Airshow on Tuesday, mainly replaces earlier models of A330 that have been ordered but not yet delivered, they added.
Airbus and AirAsia declined comment.
The planemaker's sales chief John Leahy said, while announcing a separate deal with leasing company Avolon for 15 of the same aircraft, that he hoped to introduce an airline customer within the next 24 hours, but declined to elaborate.
If confirmed, the deal would most likely make AirAsia's long-haul affiliate AirAsiaX the first carrier to order a fuel-saving model that it has long been pressing Airbus to build in order to help it compete on long routes.
AirAsiaX has 38 outstanding orders for the existing version of A330.
A person familiar with the airline had told Reuters it would be interested in converting part of those outstanding order into the revamped model. But Leahy told a news conference on Monday he did not expect more than a few conversions from old orders. (Reporting by Tim Hepher, Siva Govindasamy; Editing by Mark Potter)