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Jet Airways May Order Up To 100 Airbus Planes - Aviation Consultant

MUMBAI -(Dow Jones)- Jet Airways (India) Ltd. (532617.BY) may order up to 100 Airbus planes as early as this year to partly replace its old aircraft and to strengthen its fleet in a market where some of its rivals are fast shrinking in size, according to a top airline consultant. In its latest report on India's airlines, Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation said Jet is evaluating the purchase of Airbus A320 neo planes. The order will likely cost more than $3.75 billion at list price, said the consultancy's South Asia chief Kapil Kaul. Jet may also lease up to 10 Airbus A330 planes to "support the expansion of its European route network," the report said. It currently has 101 planes, mostly made by Boeing Co. (BA). A Jet Airways spokeswoman didn't respond to queries. Justin Dubon, head of corporate communications at Airbus, told Dow Jones Newswires that the plane maker is "always in discussions with our customers and those remain confidential." India's airline companies have been affected by high fuel prices and interest on the debt they took to fund their expansion. Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. and state-run Air India Ltd. have been the hardest hit, because of untimely expansions that backfired and labor problems. Kingfisher has recently cut its operations to a fourth of last year, while Air India has canceled several flights, giving away precious market share and expansion opportunities to rivals Interglobe Aviation Ltd., which operates low-fare IndiGo, and Jet. IndiGo and other budget carriers SpiceJet Ltd. and Go Airlines Pvt. Ltd. have also placed large aircraft orders in the last couple of years. Some analysts fear the new planes will add to the problem of oversupply in the Indian aviation market. Meanwhile, the consultant said Kingfisher, SpiceJet and Go Airlines may seek foreign investment if overseas carriers are allowed to buy into their local peers, a proposal pending for approval with the Indian government. Foreign carriers are currently not allowed to invest in India's airlines. The consultant expects Middle-Eastern carriers such as Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, as well as the International Airline Group, which controls British Airways, to be "actively watching the market" for such investment opportunities. It said India's aviation industry, propped by better performances by some airlines, will likely pare its combined loss in the fiscal year that started April 1 to $1.3 billion-$1.4 billion from last year's more than $2 billion. It estimates Air India to lose $1.3 billion, followed by Kingfisher that will likely lose $220 million-$260 million. Jet Airways, SpiceJet, IndiGo and Go Air, the consultant estimates, will post a combined profit of $200 million. -By Anirban Chowdhury, Dow Jones Newswires; 91-22-61456108; anirban.chowdhury@dowjones.com

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