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Chinese State Bank Says It Has Ordered 30 Comac C919s

The Bank of Communications has joined the line-up of Chinese state companies that are signing contracts for Comac C919 airliners, announcing an “order” for 30 of the 158-seat aircraft.

The deal was signed by the bank’s leasing arm and follows contracts announced last month covering 20 C919s for Sichuan Airlines and 45 for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Comac now has contracts covering the supply of 195 C919s.

While Dow Jones quotes Comac as saying that the orders are “intended and confirmed,” care must be taken in interpreting such announcements in China. Comac has previously listed options as orders, and in November 2010 it flourished a pile of “orders” that industry officials later said were not effectively binding. Similarly, so-called orders for the Comac ARJ21 regional jet do not impose strict obligations on the parties, industry officials say.

All C919 contracts announced so far have been with companies linked with the Chinese state, except for one with the leasing arm of C919 engine supplier General Electric. All of the state companies except Hainan Airlines and Sichuan Airlines have been enterprises of the central government, which is treating the C919 as a priority national program. It is common in China for state companies to follow state-directed national choreography, although their managers will often argue against doing so, in the interests of protecting their profits.

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