BEIJING — China will announce large contracts for the Airbus A330 next month, say two industry officials familiar with the negotiations.
Orders or intended orders for at least 70 and possibly 200 A330s will be revealed when President Xi Jinping and other leaders visit France next month, the officials say. The exact number remains undetermined, and the aircraft may not immediately go into Airbus’s books as definitive orders.
They will be among a huge quantity of airliners that China is expected to announce its intent to purchase this year. The country has not finalized its aircraft supplies for the 2016-20 planning period, so CFM Executive Vice President Chaker Chahrour expects announcements this year covering 800-1,000 aircraft. Around 80% will be for narrowbodies, Chahrour told reporters at the Singapore air show this month. That implies an unfilled Chinese requirement for 160-200 widebodies.
Another manufacturing industry official expects China’s announcements this year to exceed 1,000 aircraft. To a large extent, these forthcoming orders are already in manufacturers’ production plans, though they must deal with the uncertain split between competing airframes and engines.
The Chinese announcement in France will cover some A330-200s, even though demand for that long-range model has greatly diminished because of competition from the Boeing 787. Some of the A330-300s will be certified at less than the designed gross weight to save on maintenance costs and airport fees.
Airbus is promoting such paperwork as creating a new version of the A330-300, but the airframe and engines are unchanged; full weight can be restored with new documents.
Airbus has offered to build a completion center for A330s in China if the country orders enough of the aircraft, possibly 200, another official says. Since the quantity of A330s to be announced next month remains in doubt, building the plant must also remain part of the negotiations.
Minsheng Financial Leasing is negotiating an order for about 25 A330s with lightweight paperwork, while China Eastern may take 15, also at less than the designed weight. If those negotiations are settled in time for next month’s announcement, they will almost certainly be included.