Beijing: China agreed on Monday to buy 160 Airbus planes in a 17.4-billion-dollar deal that the European aerospace giant said was its biggest with the Asian nation.
The deal, announced as part of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to China, involves 110 planes from the short-haul A320 family and 50 A330 wide-body passenger airliners.
“It’s the biggest ever China deal for Airbus,” said Robin Tao, a Beijing-based spokesman for Airbus after the company confirmed the agreement was worth $17.4 billion, based on the list price.
Often deals are struck at a discount to list prices.
The deal came after negotiations continued almost until the last minute before the signing ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, a source close to the deal said.
Ten 330-200s will go to China Southern Airlines, the nation’s largest carrier by fleet size, which made that part of the deal public in late October.
Louis Gallois, chief executive of European Aeronautic, Defence and Space, the Airbus parent, was a member of a high-powered business delegation accompanying Sarkozy on what is his first visit to China as head of state.
China’s domestic air traffic is expected to double every five years and aviation authorities believe three of their airlines will be among the world’s top 10 both in terms of passenger traffic and revenue by 2020.
This makes it absolutely essential for Airbus as well as US rival Boeing to be part of the market.
In a bid to cement its ties with China, Airbus began in May construction of an assembly plant in Tianjin city 110 kilometres (68 miles) east of Beijing, its first outside of Europe.
The aircraft assembly facility is currently slated to begin operations in early 2009 and by 2011 hopes to be producing four A320 planes a month. It is expected to have produced a total of 300 planes by 2016.
In 2006, a visit by former French president Jacques Chirac also saw the signing of an agreement for the sale of 150 Airbus A320s to China.