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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 04:53 GMT 05:53 UK
Airbus in $1.5bn deal with China
Airbus A330

A Chinese airline has placed an order for 10 Airbus A330 aircraft in a deal worth $1.5bn (815m).

The deal was witnessed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, during a visit by Mr Blair on European Union business.

The purchaser, China Southern Airlines, has already bought four Airbus jets from the European consortium.

The A330s, capable of carrying more than 300 passengers, are due for delivery in 2007-2008.

The deal was announced during a visit by European officials to Beijing, meant to boost trade between China and the EU.

"It is a hugely important deal for Airbus in what is a very important market," said Iain Gray, the British general manager of Airbus.

"It builds on the success we've had in recent years."

The deal to supply engines for the planes is still up for grabs, with Rolls Royce, General Electric and Pratt said to be in the running.

The Chinese market for passenger flights is growing rapidly.

Last year 121 million passengers were carried by Chinese airliners, up 16% on the year before - twice the world average growth for air passenger traffic.

In May China Southern agreed to buy 45 Boeing aeroplanes for a total of $2.6bn, and then in August the US manufacturer sold 42 new Dreamliner jets to four Chinese airlines.

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