Airbus & China deal imminent

The agreement emerged as Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, toured an Airbus plant at the firm’s headquarters in Toulouse.

Wen Jiabao headed a delegation visiting France.

Airbus chief executive, Gustav Humbert, signed a memorandum of understanding with one of the visiting officials, Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-president of the National Development and Reform Commission of China.

The signing was expected to be followed Monday by the announcement of a major Chinese aircraft order.

“This is the highlight today: industrial cooperation with China. And
tomorrow, there is the other part of this two-way street: to have more
contracts, to have more aircraft flying in China,” Humbert told the Agence France Presse newsagency.

Airbus described the memorandum in vague terms, saying it was “about cooperation between the Chinese civil aviation industry” and itself, providing “a further upgrade of the cooperation between both parties.”

It also expressed hopes of further collaboration down the road, including the “possibility” of building an assembly plant for mid-range Airbus planes in China.

Currently, Airbus has a research and development centre in Beijing, and five Chinese companies produce parts for Airbus aircraft.

In Beijing, the official People’s Daily has quoted Airbus officials as
saying the company will shift all production of high-technology wings for the A320 narrow-body jet to China from Britain within seven years.

Noel Forgeard, a co-president of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) which controls 80 percent of Airbus, said recently that EADS did not rule out building a complete assembly line in China.

Press reports suggested China was to buy up to 120 Airbus A320 mid-range planes — a contract worth up to US$7.7 billion dollars (A$10.35 billion).

Wen Jiabao was to be greeted in Paris on Monday by French President Jacques Chirac.

He will then meet French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and,
according to Airbus, the two heads of governments will announce the aircraft contract in a joint media conference.

Airbus is aiming to supply 50 percent of China’s fast-growing air transport sector, up from its current 34 percent.

Boeing, which holds 60 percent of the market, clinched a 70-jet deal during US President George W. Bush’s visit to China in November.