Airbus wins big Chinese plane deal

Brussels, October 27:

Airbus, the troubled European plane-maker, received a substantial shot in the arm with multi-billion-euro orders for more than 200 of its single-aisle jets from China and the US.

The company, which has struggled to win any orders in recent months because of the two-year delay in deliveries of its A380 superjumbo, confirmed that China would buy 150 A320 planes worth $5b and take options on 20 A350s, the wide-bodied long-haul jet still to be launched. The deal was signed at a lavish ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People in the presence of the French president, Jacques Chirac, and Chinese president, Hu Jintao.

Chirac, on his last visit to China before leaving office next year, delivered several more commercial agreements, including the sale of 500 Alstom freight locomotives.

The Chinese authorities also gave the final go-ahead for Airbus to build its first non-European plant - at Tianjin, near the Chinese capital. The plant, under a joint venture, will assemble the A320s ordered by China, with output due to begin in 2009 and to reach four a month by 2011.

Airbus, owned by the aerospace and defence group EADS, also plans to build a plant in Mobile, Alabama.