Airbus has struck a deal for up to 36 planes with the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways worth as much as $7 billion, adding another fast-growing Middle East customer for its A380 Superjumbo due in 2006.
The airline, which was launched last year, said it would buy four A380s, as well as eight A340s and 12 A330s, under a memorandum of understanding signed at the Farnborough air show.
Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard told reporters that the deal included options on 12 more aircraft, boosting its potential value to $7 billion at list prices.
“If you think the last eight months have been busy for us, this is nothing compared to what the coming months and years have in store,” Etihad chairman Dr Ahmed Bin Saif Al Nahyan said.
British aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce told Reuters that the deal to supply engines for Etihad’s A340s was worth $400 million at list prices. The airline has not yet selected an engine supplier for the other planes.
Etihad had also considered planes made by Airbus's US rival Boeing Co. “We have, for over a year now, been in intensive discussions about our future craft needs with both Boeing and Airbus in which we considered a whole range of aircraft types,” the Etihad chairman said.
Airbus CEO Forgeard said the negotiations had been “competitive”.
Etihad's announcement followed a deal for Boeing unveiled on Monday worth up to $3 billion for 13 of its 777 planes for Dubai-based airline Emirates.
Big state budgets and a desire to boost tourism in the Gulf have led to a surge in demand for new aircraft from the region, providing Airbus and Boeing with a vital source of plane orders during a wider airline sector downturn.
Middle East carriers have proven the biggest buyers of the mammoth A380. Emirates, in the midst of a bold fleet expansion, plans to acquire 45 A380s, while Qatar Airways has ordered two.
Airbus is also believed to be close to plane deals with Turkish Airlines and Thai Airways, analysts say. The Toulouse, France-based manufacturer expects to deliver more planes than Boeing this year for a second consecutive year.
It has said it will deliver at least as many as in 2003, when it bested Boeing for the first time in their three-decade rivalry, delivering 305 planes.
At mid-year, Airbus had delivered 161 planes, versus 151 for Boeing, and received orders for 104 jets, against 75 for Boeing.
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