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April 23, 2019
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Airbus nabs mammoth $35bn China deal for 300 jets

PARIS: Airbus signed a deal worth tens of billions of dollars on Monday to sell 300 aircraft to China, coinciding with a visit to Europe by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The deal between Airbus and China’s state buying agency, China Aviation Supplies Holding Company, which regularly coordinates headline-grabbing deals during diplomatic visits, will include 290 A320-family jets and 10 A350 wide-body jets.

The deal is said to be worth some 30 billion euros at catalogue prices.

The larger-than-expected order, which matches an order for 300 Boeing planes when US Donald Trump visited Beijing in 2017, follows a year-long vacuum of purchases in which China failed to place significant orders amid global trade tensions.

The deal come amid the rounding of the Boeing 737 MAX which shattered Boeing’s immediate hopes for a major jet order.

There was no evidence of any direct connection between the Airbus deal and Sino-US tensions or Boeing fleet problems, but China watchers say Beijing has a history of sending diplomatic signals or playing off suppliers through state aircraft deals.

“The conclusion of a big (aviation) contract … is an important step forward and an excellent signal in the current context,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a joint address with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

China was also the first to ground the newest version of Boeing’s workhorse 737 model earlier this month following a deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash, touching off a series of regulatory actions worldwide.

Asked if negotiations had accelerated as a result of the Boeing grounding or other issues, Airbus plane-making chief and designated chief executive Guillaume Faury told reporters, “This is a long-term relationship with our Chinese partners that evolves over time; it is a strong sign of confidence.”