Airbus: poised for takeoff in China
China's aviation authorities have signed a deal with European plane-maker Airbus to buy 30 aircraft valued at $1.8bn (£1.1bn).
The deal was cemented in a Beijing ceremony, which was watched by the prime ministers of China and France.
Shares in EADS, which owns 80% of Airbus, shot up almost 4% on the Paris stock market after the signing.
The sizeable contract is the second in two days for Airbus, which beat US rival Boeing to win an order from North American budget carrier Jetblue Airways for 65 planes on Thursday.
For Airbus, the contract also represents an important advance into China's aviation market which - until the Sars outbreak - was one of world's few fast-growing air travel markets.
"We consider China a strategic market and we are delighted that Chinese airlines are giving us a new vote of confidence by selecting more Airbus aircraft," said Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard.
China is in the midst of streamlining its many state-run airlines into three alliances and has plans to list Air China, its international flag carrier, on overseas stock markets.
Of the 30 planes, the four long-haul A330s will go to China Southern, which heads one of the three new groups.
The 26 medium-range planes are a mix of A320s and A319s. They are suitable for internal flights, the fastest growing section of the market, and will be distributed between five airlines.
Airbus has declared itself poised to overtake rival plane-maker Boeing as the world's market leader in 2003.
The Toulouse-based plane maker said in January that it would deliver 300 planes in 2003.
Boeing confirmed this week that it expects to deliver 280 planes this year, the lowest number since 1996.
It also issued a profits warning and unveiled a first quarter loss of $478m.