BAe lands pounds 97m order from China

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The Independent Online
BRITISH AEROSPACE'S regional aircraft division, which is under threat of possible closure, yesterday secured a dollars 185m ( pounds 97m) order from China for eight BAe 146 jets, writes Michael Harrison.

The deal takes the number of 146s bought by the Chinese to 18 and raises worldwide orders for the aircraft to nearly 300.

The 146, which is built at Woodford, near Manchester, is BAe's biggest-selling regional aircraft and supports 3,000 jobs. There are growing fears, however, that BAe may decide to close its entire regional aircraft operation unless it can find a partner for the business.

City analysts estimate that it could cost BAe up to pounds 750m to shut the division, which also makes the Advanced Turboprop aircraft and the Jetstream.

BAe is expected to decide the fate of the business when it announces its results for the first half of the year next month.

Deliveries of the eight 146s to China Northwest Airlines will start this autumn and will be completed during the first half of next year. The airline already has 10 BAe 146-100s in service. The latest order is for the 112-seater 146-300.

Charles Masefield, president of BAe Regional Aircraft, said: 'This latest order demonstrates the continuing confidence by China in British Aerospace to provide the right product for current and future market demand.

'The Asian region as a whole is the fastest growth market in the world and we are confident further orders will follow.'