Iran seeks more aircraft, questions rise about financing and need

Iran seeks more aircraft, questions rise about financing and need

Iran has expanded its search for aircraft and is looking to order dozens of more jets while it continues to try to overcome hurdles to deals worth some $50 billion with Airbus and Boeing, Iranian officials and Western industry sources said.

Iranian airline executives attended the Farnborough Airshow in Britain over the past week and held preliminary discussions with several potential sellers including Japan’s Mitsubishi, which is developing a new regional jet, they said.

According to a draft contract signed between Iran and Airbus earlier in 2016, the Airbus will sell 118 planes to Iran.

Iranian officials have already emphasized that the country will need to buy 500 commercial jets of various models for various short-, medium- and long-distance routes.

The agreement with Airbus – which is worth $27 billion – envisages purchasing 118 new planes by Iran. The country has also conducted advanced trade talks with Boeing.

In late May, Managing Director of Iran’s national carrier, Iran Air (Homa), Farhad Parvaresh announced that Iran will most possibly finalize the contract to purchase Airbus and ATR aircraft within the next 45 days.

“Negotiations for the two contracts are lengthy, but we hope to finalize the contract within the next 45 days,” Parvaresh told FNA.

He also expressed the hope that based on Airbus pledges, 8 Airbus and ATR planes could join the country’s air fleet by the end of the current year.

Financing the deals, questioning its advantages

Earlier this year, the world’s two largest plane makers struck provisional deals with IranAir under an agreement between Tehran and world powers to ease sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities.

“Yes, there are problems, financial and political, but there have been several meetings with Boeing and Airbus top authorities particularly in the past few weeks in order to resolve the issue and to find a way to overcome the remaining obstacles,” an Iranian official close to the talks said.

Also in early May, Parvaresh had announced that two German and French banks would help Iran to purchase Airbus and ATR aircraft.

“Airbus has coordinated with German and French banks to finance the purchase of passenger planes and our project will be finalized in the next two months,” Parvaresh told FNA.

He underlined that one of the very important things that are included in the draft contracts is the financing of the projects.

“One of the main duties of the aircraft manufacturers is helping to find the proper financiers while Iran Air is also looking for financier with more favorable conditions,” Parvaresh added.

The U.S. House of Representatives this month passed a measure that could, if confirmed by the Senate and barring a presidential veto, block sales of Boeing and Airbus aircraft to Iran because they use a large number of U.S. components.

The latest contacts between Iran and Western plane makers come as questions hover over part of the $27 billion deal between Airbus and Iran, signed in January.

People familiar with the matter said recently that Iran was cooling towards the purchase of 12 A380 superjumbos that were part of the provisional deal.

Airbus subsequently announced a cut in A380 production.

“Some Iranian critics of the deal argue that we don’t need big planes that will only be used by those traveling to America or similar destinations,” a senior Iranian official said.

“We will evaluate that part when the time comes … One solution is to buy around 50 other planes instead.”

The official urged Western governments and manufacturers to help “resolve their side of the problem, including the financing issue”.

Asked what types of aircraft Iran could buy, he said, “It will be similar, but on a smaller scale, to what we have bought so far”.