Airbus Group NV is poised to win a Chinese order for commercial aircraft that includes 27 wide-bodies airliners held up for more than a year by wrangling over carbon levies, people with knowledge of the deal said.
The purchase is set to be announced on March 26 when a Chinese state delegation visits Europe, said the people, who asked not to be identified because details are still being negotiated. The accord with Toulouse, France-based Airbus may be in excess of 100 aircraft and includes long-haul A330s and A350s and a large number of single-aisle A320neos, one of the people said.
China will supplant the U.S. as Airbus’s biggest single market within 20 years, the European company said in its most recent forecast. The Asian nation is already the No. 1 buyer of the twin-engine A330 and is being specifically targeted by Airbus through the development of a new, shorter-range variant.
Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said the planemaker doesn’t comment publicly on discussions with customers. Zhong Ning, a spokeswoman at the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said in an e-mailed reply that CAAC did not have information regarding the Airbus deal.
Reuters earlier reported that Airbus may sign an accord for as many as 150 aircraft, including the models frozen in the emissions spat, citing people familiar with the plan. The deal coincides with Airbus setting up a new facility for aircraft-cabin work in China, Reuters said.
Airbus has encouraged Chinese orders for single-aisle jets by establishing a factory in Tianjin that assembles four A320s a month. A large order for the re-engined Neo model would allow it to move forward in cementing terms to keep the plant open.
The A330 order to be announced may include new planes while confirming a prior deal put on hold during the CO2 row.
China suspended 55 aircraft orders after the European Union sought to unilaterally curb aircraft emissions in 2012, restoring some when the EU weakened its stance while holding back on contracts for 27 A330s.
Though Chinese airlines often disclose their own purchases, many aren’t firmed up until the government itself signs off. The state typically groups orders together to make a bigger impact in announcements coinciding with official visits.
The largest contract ever placed by China with Airbus was in 2007, when the country’s premier announced a $17 billion deal for 160 jetliners. In 2005, the company won a $10 billion deal for 150 aircraft, also announced in Paris.