Chinese Airbus could land giant order involving 150 planes

Airbus could land a giant order involving as many as 150 planes when Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao signs a commercial accord after talks with his French counterpart on Monday, two French newspapers said.Sources close to the deal told Reuters last week that Chinese airlines were in talks to buy some 70 A320 single-aisle aircraft, matching a similar order from Boeing last month.But La Tribune and Le Figaro dailies reported that the final deal, which was being negotiated into the weekend, could involve as many as 120 to 150 aircraft.

Such a deal could be potentially be worth over $10 billion (6 billion pounds).Officials of Airbus, whose parent is EADS (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), declined to comment but one said the deal to be unveiled at around 1030 GMT would be "big".

Not all the aircraft are likely to be firm orders, however, the official said.Orders are often packaged together with expressions of interest to boost the value of a deal to coincide with a political event like Wen's three-day visit.

France is hoping for a cluster of Chinese deals this week, including business with Eurocopter, the world's largest civilian helicopter maker, and Alcatel Alenia Space (CCGEP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research). Wen is due to visit the plants of both companies during his visit.

Airbus and its rival Boeing (BA.N: Quote, Profile, Research) are heading for a record year in orders as Asian demand and the spread of low-cost carriers shield them from airline failures in the United States.

French President Jacques Chirac is keen to gain France a firm footing in a country of some 1.3 billion people that has rapidly become a vast new hunting ground where governments and big business are vying for access.

Any Chinese order which is significantly higher than the 70 jets previously expected would give Airbus a boost ahead of a showdown with Boeing in Australia on Wednesday, when the board of Qantas (QAN.AX: Quote, Profile, Research) is expected to allocate orders worth $10 billion, reports Reuters. I.L.

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