Three Chinese companies to buy 300 Boeing aircraft

Three Chinese companies are buying 300 Boeing Co aircraft, in a deal that came as part of Chinese president Xi Jinping's visit to the US, official media said today.

The purchasers included China Aviation Supplies Holding Co as also the plane-leasing arm of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd and policy bank China Development Bank, official Xinhua News Agency said.

It added the companies signed the deals yesterday in the US, where Xi had just kicked off a state visit.

Details as to the types of planes and financial details were not disclosed by the agency.

It further added Commercial Aircraft Corp of China struck a deal with Boeing to build an aircraft completion centre in China.

Meanwhile, Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said yesterday he saw scope for additional 737 work going to China as the company continued to hike production rates of the single-aisle jetliner, though any changes would not come at the expense of US jobs.

"As we ramp up capabilities in China, including additional 737-related work, the actions that we'll take are actions that will also allow us to grow jobs here in the US," Muilenburg said at an aerospace conference in Seattle organised by SAE International.

In a memo to employees yesterday, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Ray Conner said the company was negotiating a strategic partnership and sales with China.

"These discussions are at a sensitive stage," Conner said in an internal memo which Reuters claims to have seen. "I hope (it) will be a win for Boeing, a win for the Puget Sound, and a win for our stakeholders. I want to assure you that agreements we may reach with our Chinese partners will not result in layoffs or reduce employment for the 737 program in Washington state."

Conner and Muilenburg made no mention of specifics related to Boeing's proposed 737 finishing facility in China, a step expected to be announced during Chinese president Xi Jinping's visit to Seattle this week.

Boeing's plans to set up a facility in China that would paint, finish and deliver 737 jetliners built at its factory near Seattle.

The plans have not gone down well with the company's largest union, representing about 35,000 Boeing employees.

According to The International Association of Machinists, Boeing had discussed its desire to expand collaboration with China but shared no details. "Any shift of aerospace jobs from our bargaining unit or Washington State causes grave concern," the union has said.

Earlier this month, reports said Boeing was close to striking a deal with the Chinese government to open a 737 jet completion and delivery centre in China, The Seattle Times reported. (See: Boeing to open 737 Assembly centre in China).