Etihad Airways is in talks to buy as many as 30 of Boeing Co. (BA:US)’s upgraded 777 jets, a deal with a list value of about $10.2 billion, as the planemaker prepares to unveil the new model, people familiar with the matter said.
An order for the 777X, which is targeted to enter service near decade’s end, may be wrapped up before next month’s Dubai Airshow, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. The plane will be bigger than the current 777, already the world’s largest twin-engine jetliner.
Boeing may formally introduce the 777X at the expo with “large Middle Eastern orders,” including a deal by Dubai-based Emirates, Douglas Harned, a New York-based analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., wrote in an Oct. 17 report. He rates Chicago-based Boeing the equivalent of a buy.
A sale to Abu Dhabi-based Etihad would build on Boeing’s momentum for the 777X after Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) agreed last month to buy 34 of the wide-body jets. Emirates, the largest operator of the current 777, intends to replace 175 of those aircraft with the new model and may announce an order at the Dubai show, President Tim Clark said on Oct. 1.
“The scale of what we are contemplating is enormous,” said Clark, who declined to elaborate on the potential purchase size.
Boeing’s board has yet to publicly commit to building the 777X, and Doug Alder, a company spokesman, declined to comment yesterday about any talks with Etihad. A spokesman for Etihad, who asked not to be identified because of airline policy, said the state-owned carrier had no comment.
Etihad, the third-largest Persian Gulf carrier, is talking with Boeing and Airbus SAS about jetliners that would meet its fleet requirements beyond 2020, Chief Commercial Officer Peter Baumgartner said Oct. 2.
While Boeing hasn’t said what it will charge for the 777X, Lufthansa’s $11 billion order implies a retail price of $340 million per jet, according to an estimate by Peter Arment, a Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc. analyst in Birmingham, Alabama.
The 777, Boeing’s top seller among its current wide-body offerings, will be redesigned to include the biggest engines ever and boast a record wingspan that can be shortened by having the tips fold up after landing.
The first model, the 777-9X, will be able to fly as far as 8,000 nautical miles (14,800 kilometers) with more than 400 passengers while burning 20 percent less fuel than current 777s. A second variant, carrying about 350 people, will push past 9,400 nautical miles, enough to go nonstop from New York to Singapore.
In 2012, Etihad canceled an order in 2012 for six Airbus A350-1000s, the biggest variant of that twin-engine plane and a future competitor to the 777-8X.
Reuters first reported the scope of the Boeing-Etihad talks yesterday.
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