pounds 2.5bn deal set to secure Airbus entry into Latin American market

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Airbus Industrie is poised to land a $4bn (pounds 2.5bn) order for 100 aircraft from a group of Latin American airlines, marking a further inroad by the European planemaker into an area of the world traditionally dominated by its American rival Boeing.

The order is the single biggest aircraft purchase placed in Latin America and the second largest order won by Airbus. The three airlines involved are the Chilean carrier LanChile, and two airline holding companies, TACA of Central America and TAM of Brazil.

The orders are expected to be signed next month. A LanChile spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that it had signed a letter of intent with Airbus. The deal covers 100 single-aisle short-haul jets from the Airbus A320 family due for delivery from 2000 onwards. In addition the airlines are expected to take options on a further 100 aircraft.

Boeing dominates the South American aviation scene with a market share estimated at more than 80 per cent. So the Airbus order, thought to have been won with the promise of substantial discounts, will come as a blow to the Seattle-based group. Last year Airbus secured a $5bn order from USAirways for 124 aircraft and this month won a $2.6bn order from Iberia of Spain, its biggest European deal.

Airbus won a record 460 firm orders worth $29.6bn last year,breaking the previous all-time high of 421 firm sales in 1989.