* German airline says board decides on long-haul fleet
* Lufthansa expected to order Airbus A350, Boeing 777-9X
* Airline calls Thursday news conference
* Deal could be worth $17 bln based on new 777 estimate
By Marilyn Gerlach
FRANKFURT, Sept 18 Deutsche Lufthansa
signalled its second major aircraft order in six months on
Wednesday, saying its supervisory board had backed a long-haul
fleet plan that industry watchers expect to benefit Airbus
The German airline group said it would hold a news
conference to outline the multi-billion-dollar investment at 11
a.m. local time (0900 GMT) in Frankfurt on Thursday.
Lufthansa is in the middle of a deep revamp that includes
3,500 job cuts, while investing in modern jets to cut its fuel
bill and catch up with Middle East rivals particularly on the
highly fought over routes between Europe and Asia.
On Friday, two people familiar with the matter said
Europe's largest airline by revenue was putting the finishing
touches to a deal worth well over $10 billion at list prices to
be split between the world's top planemakers.
The purchase of dozens of aircraft will include the first
provisional order for a revamped version of Boeing's most
popular big jet, currently code-named 777-9X, the people said.
An order for the 406-seat model would be subject to its
formal launch, which the U.S. planemaker expects by year-end. It
is expected to enter service around the end of the decade.
Lufthansa also plans to purchase around 20-25 Airbus
A350-900 jets, the European manufacturer's latest model which is
due to enter service in the second half of 2014, they said.
The combined order could be worth $17 billion at list prices
based on estimated values for the 777-9X, whose new wings and
engines are expected to command a premium to existing 777s.
The deal follows a contest for about 50 aircraft but the
final volumes could vary, industry sources said.
The order is likely to be a boost for engine manufacturers
Rolls-Royce and General Electric, which power the
A350 and latest versions of the 777 respectively.
Lufthansa provided no details of the purchase ahead of
Thursday's news conference.
The event will be the first public appearance by Chief
Executive Christoph Franz since he abruptly announced he was
quitting to become chairman of Swiss drugmaker Roche.
Lufthansa said on Monday that Franz would not seek a renewal
of his term, which expires in May next year.
Wednesday's supervisory board meeting was expected to
discuss potential candidates to replace the 53-year-old, whose
unexpected departure comes at a critical juncture of the group's
Under Franz, Lufthansa has pushed through a cost-cutting
programme now in its second year to boost operating profit to
2.3 billion in 2015 from 524 million in 2011, and partly fund
investments in modern planes and new cabin products.
In March, Lufthansa confirmed an order for 100 Airbus
short-haul jets worth $10 billion at list prices.
Lufthansa posted a 27 percent decline in second-quarter
operating profit to 431 million euros ($570.4 million) on
largely flat sales at 7.84 billion euros, both below consensus.
Air France provided further evidence of the
malaise gripping former state-owned European airlines by
announcing 2,800 fresh job cuts on Wednesday.