Airbus SE is working to secure a multi-billion-dollar sale of wide-body jets to China in a deal that could come together as soon as April 7, during French President Emmanuel Macron’s planned visit to the Asian nation, according to people familiar with the matter.
The talks cover A350 and possibly A330neo models used for long-distance flights, the people said, seeking anonymity because negotiations are ongoing and the number of planes — potentially dozens — and model choices were in flux. Discussions could end without a pact, the people said.
After customary industry discounts, A350s sell for over $150 million each, according to aviation consultant Avitas.
Adding wide-bodies would bolster China’s global tourism capacity as it emerges from a three-year freeze on international travel because of its COVID-19 border shutdown. An Airbus sale would also tip China’s order slate further in the European plane maker’s favor, with Boeing Co.’s position more uncertain amid strained ties between Beijing and Washington.
China was the biggest source of outbound visitors in the world prior to the pandemic. It was among the last major countries to reopen to the outside, and its airlines have so far focused on adding smaller planes used for domestic and regional flights. In 2022, Airbus won one of its biggest orders ever, for almost 300 narrow-body jets to four Chinese airlines.
An Airbus spokesman declined to comment, saying the Toulouse, France-based plane maker was always in talks with customers and any negotiations are confidential. China Aviation Supplies Holding Co., who typically signs large deals on behalf of Chinese airlines, couldn’t be reached outside normal business hours. The French presidency didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Chinese government typically signs bulk orders and then directs them to individual airlines later. The backlog of twin-aisle aircraft such as the A350, Airbus’s largest model, among Chinese carriers has shrunk to just 54, versus the 654 single-aisle jets, according to aviation data provider Cirium.
The country’s top airline by fleet size, China Southern Airlines Co., has just 15 large planes waiting to be delivered to bolster its fleet of 879 commercial jets.
Reuters reported earlier that Airbus was in negotiations on a Chinese order.
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