* Nok Air expected to announce deal at Singapore Airshow
* Airline seen acquiring up to 28 jets from Boeing, lessors
* Deal comes despite Thai political, economic uncertainty
By Praveen Menon and Anshuman Daga
DUBAI/SINGAPORE, Feb 6 Thailand's Nok Airlines
is close to placing an order for Boeing 737 jets, several
people familiar with the matter said, sidestepping domestic
political turmoil to step up a battle between Southeast Asia's
The deal for the latest version of Boeing's best-selling
passenger jet, the 737 MAX, is expected to be announced at next
week's Singapore Airshow.
Both the airline and the manufacturer declined to comment.
The order could be worth between $1.5 and $3 billion and
contrasts with concerns that aviation could be swept up in
Thailand's political and economic uncertainty which has helped
fuel a recent slide in emerging markets.
Anti-government protests have been blocking parts of Bangkok
in the latest round of an eight-year dispute that broadly pits
the capital's middle class, southern Thais and the royalist
establishment against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Prime
Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, former premier
Nok Air, 39.2 percent owned by Thai Airways International
PCL, competes with Air Asia's Thai venture
Asia Aviation PCL, a venture backed by Indonesia's Lion
Air and Bangkok Airways Co. Ltd.
The new order would be the first major aircraft deal for Nok
Air, which listed in Thailand in June in order to renew its
fleet and which is expanding domestic and international routes.
Two sources said the airline's requirements could include as
many as 28 of the 737 aircraft family, but another said barely
half of the total would be ordered directly from Boeing.
"Leasing companies will provide part of Nok's requirements.
Nok is looking at a number of arrangements as they need the
aircraft," said a further source familiar with the deal.
Nok Air operates 14 Boeing aircraft in its fleet of 21, with
the remainder comprising ATR and Saab craft.
Thailand's political instability was among risks cited at a
meeting of aviation finance leaders last month.