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China may buy 30 Boeing jets
( 2003-11-06 09:18) (Agencies)

China is poised to buy as many as 30 planes worth about US$2 billion from Boeing Co, the world's largest aircraft maker, allowing the country to narrow its trade gap with the United States.

Carriers including Shandong Airlines Co and Xiamen Airlines Co will buy Boeing 737 aircraft from the Chicago-based company, an official at China's State Development Planning Commission said in a phone interview from Beijing, speaking on condition of anonymity. The commission approves purchases of planes for Chinese airlines, all of which are state controlled.

The order may be announced during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's Washington DC visit, scheduled for this month, Boeing officials said. The purchases are a part of China's efforts to ease US concern about its US$130 billion trade gap with Asia's second-largest economy.

The order will help Boeing limit the loss of market share to Toulouse, France-based Airbus SAS. Boeing last month said sales of commercial aircraft dropped 17 percent in the third quarter.

Airbus has won 263 orders this year, compared with Boeing's 169. Airbus expects to deliver 300 airplanes this year, which would give it more deliveries than Boeing for the first time in its history.

Mark Hooper, a spokesman of Boeing in Hong Kong, declined to comment on the Chinese carriers' orders.

"Airplane order announcements are the province of our customers," he said. "They make the announcement at a time that suits them."

Chinese Trade Minister Lu Fuyuan and other officials have said China will increase imports to close its trade surpluses with the United States, European Union and Japan.

Chinese airlines will buy 2,400 new aircraft worth US$197 billion in the next two decades, according to Boeing, as they expand their fleets to meet demand in one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

The Chinese economy, the world's sixth-largest, is expanding at an estimated 8 percent annual rate, three times as fast as the Group of Seven industrialized economies.

Shandong Airlines, a carrier based in Jinan in Shandong Province, will buy seven 737s from Boeing, taking delivery as soon as 2005, said General Manager Gao Zhu in a phone interview.

The carrier, which has a fleet of 30 planes including those made by Boeing and Canada's Bombardier Inc, plans to expand its fleet by a third to 40 planes by 2007 as it prepares to offer flights to South Korea and Japan next year, Gao said. The carrier, which had earlier sought government approval to buy 15 Boeing planes, will order the remaining planes later, Gao said.

Xiamen Airlines, 60 percent owned by China's biggest carrier China Southern Airlines Co, will buy five single-aisle 737 planes from Boeing to expand its all-Boeing fleet, said its Chairman He Ping. The carrier has 27 Boeing 737s and 757s.

Xiamen Airlines operates more than 110 domestic routes and four international routes to Singapore, Seoul, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

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