As Boeing flounders, Airbus thrives—the European plane manufacturer has just sold another 300 jets to Chinese airlines.
The deal was signed Monday as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited France’s Emmanuel Macron in Paris. No value was announced, but the pre-discount list price for the order is roughly $35 billion. Airbus’s shares rose more than 2% on the news.
“We are honored to support the growth of China’s civil aviation with our leading aircraft families–single-aisle and widebodies,” said Airbus commercial aircraft chief Guillaume Faury, who will become CEO next month. “Our expanding footprint in China demonstrates our lasting confidence in the Chinese market and our long-term commitment to China and our partners.”
Almost all the planes—290 of the 300—are in Airbus’s single-aisle A320 family. This is the line with which Boeing was scrambling to compete when it developed its 737 Max 8 aircraft, which have been grounded around the world in the wake of two deadly crashes. Boeing’s planes are still parked while the company readies a software fix for the automated flight control issue that may have caused the accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
China was among the first countries to order the Max 8’s grounding, and it is reportedly considering cutting new 737 Max planes from the list of American products it would buy under a trade deal with the U.S.
The value of the French deal also provides some interesting perspective regarding Italy’s recent Belt and Road agreement with China, struck as Xi visited Rome a couple days ago. Belt and Road is China’s attempt to create a successor to the Silk Road trade routes of old, but critics see it as a tool of expansionism. This past weekend, Italy became the first G7 country to sign up.
The export-driven Italian agreement was worth less than $3 billion—though the Italian government claims it could end up being worth over $22 billion—and it leaves Italy open to criticism from other Western European countries that it will become overly dependent on China.
Macron, a big Belt and Road critic, turned his reception of Xi into a show of European unity by inviting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to join in on Tuesday talks. “Europe must be united and have a coherent message. That’s what we are doing on strategic investments,” he said in a joint address with his Chinese counterpart.
In total, China and France agreed deals with a value of around $45 billion, covering areas such as shipping, banking and renewable energy—and all outside the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.