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Airbus in Talks With Turkish Air for 150 Jets, Minister Says

Turkish Airlines (THYAO) is considering the purchase of about 150 Airbus SAS aircraft, in an order that would include some A380 superjumbos, as the carrier pursues an expansion by connecting traffic between Europe and Asia.

The talks between the carrier, officially known as Turk Hava Yollari AO, and Toulouse, France-based Airbus were disclosed by French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq today in a statement ahead of her planned visit Istanbul next week, where she will meet Turkey’s economics minister and executives, including the head of Turkish Airlines. The airline confirmed the planned meeting.

Turkish Airlines is emulating Emirates and other carriers in the Gulf region, who are benefiting from their geographic position to build a hub connecting traffic from the U.S. via Europe to Asia. The Turkish airline has a mixed fleet of Airbus A320 family single-aisle planes and the competing 737 by Boeing Co. (BA), in what is the most hotly contested market between the duopoly.

“Turkish is already one of the fastest-expanding airlines worldwide,” said Tim Coombs, managing editor of London-based Aviation Economics. “They’ve got the natural advantages of geography, placed between Europe and Asia, and an extremely large home population.”

Airbus parent European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. rose as much as 59 cents, or 1.8 percent, to 32.63 euros in Paris and traded at 32.28 euros as of of 5 p.m. in the French capital.

Lionel Messi

The Turkish carrier has sought to upgrade its service and has been on a marketing spree in recent years, enlisting sporting icons including soccer player Lionel Messi and basketball star Kobe Bryant for television adverts.

Officials at the airline’s public relations office had no immediate comment today except to confirm the planned meeting with the French minister. Airbus declined to comment, saying all discussions with potential customers are private.

Next week’s meeting between the minister and the airline chief comes ahead of a Jan. 17 press briefing by Airbus to review last year’s performance and present plans for 2013. Airbus gave up the lead in aircraft deliveries to Boeing last year, after holding advantage for almost a decade.

Fewer Orders

Airbus also likely finished 2012 with fewer new aircraft orders than Boeing, which won 1,023 contracts. Airbus had been targeting 650 for 2012 following a windfall a year earlier, when the European manufacturer was first to offer a more fuel- efficient variant of its single-aisle jet, the A320neo.

Airbus last month won an order for 75 A320 neo planes from Pegasus Airlines, a low-fare Turkish carrier that until now has been flying 737s.

Turkish Airlines had previously said it was considering the purchase of as many as six A380 superjumbos from Airbus. It had also said it was looking at jets bigger than Boeing’s 330-seat 777, currently the carrier’s largest model, to lure transfer traffic between Europe and Asia away from Air France-KLM Group (AF), Deutsche Lufthansa AG and British Airways-parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA.

In November, the company said it was close to ordering 100 planes to provide short-haul links from Istanbul, saying then it would scrap plans to buy the biggest jumbo jets in favor of more modestly sized wide-body planes.

The airline’s fleet is already set to expand to about 206 planes through 2013, when an expansion program originally slated to end in 2015 will be completed.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrea Rothman in Toulouse at aerothman@bloomberg.net; Francois de Beaupuy in Paris at fdebeaupuy@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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