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November 4, 2009

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New-look Air NZ to buy 14 Airbuses

AIR New Zealand would buy 14 new Airbus planes at a cost of about US$1 billion to replace its domestic fleet of Boeings, the national carrier said in Wellington yesterday.

The move follows what European plane maker Airbus called an "intensive and robust" face-off between the world's only makers of large passenger aircraft as airlines remain mired in recession.

Air New Zealand said it would buy 14 Airbus A320 single-aisle jets to replace its fleet of 15 Boeing 737-300s. Both models are used for short to medium routes.

The planes are worth US$1.08 billion at list prices. In France, Airbus said the planes would be powered by engines supplied by International Aero Engines, a consortium led by Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney and grouping Germany's MTU as well as a trio of Japanese heavy engineering firms. IAE competes with CFM, a joint venture between Safran and General Electric, for A320 engine deals which are negotiated separately with airlines.

Air New Zealand said the A320s would begin arriving in January 2011 and be delivered progressively until 2016 to coincide with the expiry of 737-300 leases.

Shares in Air NZ, which is about 76 percent owned by the government, closed up 1.6 percent at NZ$1.30 (93 US cents).

So far this year the stock has gained about 38 percent compared with a 17 percent rise in the benchmark NZSX-50 index.

Airbus parent EADS fell 1.4 percent, tracking a weaker European market.

Airlines lobby group IATA said yesterday that the financial performance of carriers appeared to have improved in the third quarter but repeated its forecast for US$11 billion in industry losses in 2009.


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