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Airbus lands on Boeing territory in deal with US Ex-Im Bank

Airbus will open itself up to ­financing from an unlikely source when the first jet is ­delivered today from its new factory in Alabama: the US Export-Import Bank.

The government-owned bank’s guarantees have helped finance hundreds of Boeing jets over the years. Airbus has used similar European agencies to help its sales, but now building aircraft in the US will allow some of the European plane maker’s customers to tap Ex-Im for the first time.

The first aircraft delivered from the new Airbus plant in Mobile are destined for JetBlue Airways and American Airlines, which like other US carriers are barred from receiving European export-credit support because of global trade rules.

But Airbus hasn’t ruled out using the factory to build planes for export, and those sales would be eligible for US help.

“If an Airbus plane from ­Mobile had 50 per cent US content, we’d finance 50 per cent,” Ex-Im chairman Fred Hochberg said.

Airbus said for now all its jet deliveries from Mobile were to North American customers. “If we were to sell a Mobile-assembled aircraft to an international carrier, it could be eligible for some level of Ex-Im financing,” an Airbus spokeswoman said.

Airbus has invested about $US600 million ($779m) in the new factory, which is expected to produce four of its single-aisle jets a month by the end of next year. The company opened a similar facility in China in 2008.

A side benefit could be access to US government financing.

Boeing has led a lobbying battle to keep Ex-Im open, claiming it is at a competitive disadvantage to Airbus without access to comparable US financing. Despite the bank’s reopening in December after a six-month closure, Boeing’s customers are still stymied by an ongoing political fight that has left the bank unable to approve deals over $US10m.

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