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Airbus confirms $9.4-billion AirAsia order

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes during a visit to Airbus U.K. in Broughton, Wales Dec. 13, 2012. Malaysian group AirAsia is the world’s largest A320 customer by number of planes ordered.

Pool/Reuters

European plane maker Airbus SAS said on Thursday that Malaysian group AirAsia was the customer behind a previously announced order for 100 A320 aircraft worth around $9.4-billion (U.S.) at list prices.

The deal, which provides AirAsia with an additional 64 A320neo and 36 A320ceo aircraft, was formally unveiled at Airbus's wing assembly plant in Broughton, Wales, in the presence of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The contract will safeguard 1,500 Airbus jobs in Britain and 7,500 in the group's wider supply chain, Mr. Cameron's office said.

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"This is excellent news and a tremendous boost for the work force and for U.K. manufacturing," Mr. Cameron said in a statement.

"Today's announcement demonstrates the strength of the U.K. aerospace sector and the important role it plays in growing and rebalancing our economy."

Alongside AirAsia's chief executive Tony Fernandes, Mr. Cameron toured the Broughton plant, which employs more than 5,000 people and will be making the wings of the aircraft.

Other major parts are made in France, Germany and Spain.

The announcement comes a day after data showed that the number of people in work in Britain hit a record high in November, offering some relief to a government struggling with unpopular austerity measures and a sluggish economy.

The contract also reaffirms AirAsia, Asia's largest low-cost carrier, as the world's largest A320 customer by number of aircraft ordered.

"We have just bought 100 planes which makes a total of 475. To meet the amazing demand in Asia," Mr. Fernandes wrote on Twitter.

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AirAsia placed a record 200-plane Airbus order in 2011.

Fresh talks between AirAsia and Airbus, initially for 50 jets, were first reported by Reuters in May.

But the European plane maker's chances for a deal were thrown into doubt when Mr. Fernandes held surprise talks with Canadian plane maker Bombardier Inc. at Silverstone in July, on the eve of the British Grand Prix.

In September, industry sources said AirAsia and Airbus were closing in on an expanded deal for 100 aircraft.

Economic growth, urbanization and rising disposable incomes are spurring rapid passenger growth among Asian low-cost carriers, helping to shield Airbus and its rival Boeing Co. from the malaise gripping developed economies.

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