* CEO says airline still needs "a lot" of aircraft
* U.S. analyst says airline poised to place big Airbus order
* Travel demand in Southeast Asia fuelling expansion
By Tim Hepher
PARIS, Sept 25 Indonesia's Lion Air may add more
jets to recent plane orders in order to keep pace with Southeast
Asia's transport growth as a U.S. analyst said the airline may
place a multi-billion-dollar order with Europe's Airbus.
Lion Air co-founder and chief executive, Rusdi Kirana, said
on Tuesday that Southeast Asia's double-digit increase in air
travel demand, spurred by economic growth and rising incomes,
was set to continue.
"We think that in the next decade we will need a lot of
aircraft," he told Reuters in a telephone interview. "The market
is growing very fast. We are looking, but it depends on pricing
and many other factors. We are talking, but we have not made any
U.S. aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton said however, that
Lion Air was poised to order up to 100 Airbus jets, breaking
Boeing's dominance at Indonesia's largest domestic
Orders of 100 aircraft would be worth approximately $9
billion at list prices for 150-seat jets like the Airbus A320 or
Boeing 737, but airlines usually negotiate steep discounts.
Officials with Airbus could not immediately be reached for
Lion Air shot to attention in late 2010 when a provisional
order for 230 Boeing jets got high billing during a visit to the
world's fourth most-populous nation by U.S. President Barack
Obama, eager to play up the importance of U.S. exports.
Confirmed in February this year, the record deal took Lion
Air's order book to more than 400 planes, which it aims to use
to fly across the Asia-Pacific region.
Bolstered by export credits from Western producing
countries, airlines in emerging markets have been placing
significant bets on air travel in a region where passenger
growth outpaces that of developed nations despite some spillover
from Europe's debt crisis.
Indonesia's average annual passenger growth is 21 percent,
according to Lion Air.
If confirmed, a deal between Lion Air and Boeing's
arch-rival could be seen as a turning point after a series of
orders that lifted the airline to be one of Boeing's top
Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS, and Boeing, have been
locked in a fierce price fight for much of this year, often
halving official list prices to take or defend market share,
according to multiple industry sources and analysts.
Jakarta-based Lion Air competes with one of Airbus's largest
customers, AirAsia of Malaysia, which has itself
confirmed plans to order another 100 Airbus jets in addition to
a total of 375 already ordered, of which 100 are now in service.
Lion Air this month also announced plans to challenge
AirAsia by setting up a new, low-cost airline based in Malaysia
as Southeast Asia's growing middle class fuels demand for cheap
The new carrier, Malindo Airways, will begin flights between
Indonesia and Malaysia next May with a fleet of 12 Boeing 727
aircraft, which it plans to expand to 100 planes within a
decade, Kirana said when announcing the launch.
Lion Air meanwhile, says it is in talks with Boeing to buy
10 787 Dreamliners worth $1.9 billion to tap the long-haul
market. The plan would extend an initial deal in June to buy
five 787 Dreamliner passenger jets.