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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Malev Buys 30 Superjets for $1Bln

ReutersA Sukhoi Superjet 100 taking off for a short demonstration flight on Monday, the first day of the 48th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget Airport near Paris.
Malev Hungarian Airlines said Monday that it would purchase 30 Superjets worth $1 billion, providing a welcome boost to the aircraft as it made its international debut at the Paris Air Show.

Sukhoi Superjet 100, the first passenger jet that Russia has built from scratch since the Soviet collapse, "perfectly matches" Malev's flight network and will be used on both regional and medium-haul routes, Malev CEO Martin Gauss said in a statement.

Gauss signed a letter of intent with Superjet International head Alessandro Franzoni.

The airline will start taking delivery of the planes with a 98-seat configuration in 2011, the statement said.

Malev is 49 percent owned by state-controlled Vneshekonombank, which acquired the stake earlier this year after its main shareholder, Boris Abramovich, the former owner of the bankrupt AirUnion airline, failed to fulfill obligations that he took in securing the stake in 2007.

Monday's deal brings the total number of orders for the midrange plane to 128, though the viability of agreements with AirUnion and Dalavia are now questionable. Sukhoi aims to have 150 orders by the end of the year, said company director Mikhail Pogosyan, Interfax reported.

Thirteen planes are currently under construction, and the first four will be handed over to clients by the end of the year, Pogosyan said.

After 2012, the company will build 70 Superjets per year, he said.

Armenian Armavia will receive the first two planes, followed by Aeroflot, which has ordered a total of 30 planes with an option for 15 more.

Other buyers of the plane include Russia's Avialeasing company, Swiss Ama Asset Management Advisor and Indonesian Kartika Airlines.

The SSJ-100 is a pilot project of Russia's civil aircraft building industry, which has not developed a new plane in at least two decades. The plane's international maiden flight Monday was the highlight of the opening day of the weeklong Paris Air Show in Le Bourget.

Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko said Monday that the government wanted the share of Russian aircraft makers to reach 10 percent on the global civil aviation market by 2020, calling the SSJ-100 a "priority project," Interfax reported.

Analysts offered cautious praise for the SSJ-100 but called Khristenko's goal highly optimistic.

While government support and the $28 million price tag may make the plane competitive in the midrange segment, most Western airlines are waiting to see the plane's track record after the first deliveries are made, said Mikhail Pak, an analyst with Metropol.

Pak noted that the Superjet "cannot be called an entirely Russian project."

The aircraft was developed by 30 companies in Russia and Europe, including Boeing and Snecma. Superjet's maker, the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company, is jointly controlled by Sukhoi and Alenia Aeronatica, a subsidiary of Italian company Finmeccanica, which bought a 25 percent stake in SCAC in April.

The Superjet's international debut comes amid the aviation industry's gloomiest period in decades. The International Air Transport Association predicts that the industry will lose $9 billion this year, largely from fewer passengers.

Current versions of the aircraft come with 75 to 98 seats, but Pogosyan said Monday that Sukhoi was considering a stretch version. The plane is seen as emerging competitor to Bombardier and Embraer, neither of which have any new aircraft to show in Paris. In fact, the SSJ-100 is the only new plane to take to the French skies at this year's air show. The jet flew for the first time in Russia in May 2008 and has been passing various certification tests since. It is expected to receive final certification this fall.

Also at the air show, plane maker Irkut said Monday that it planned to build more than 1,000 of its MC-21 single-aisle passenger planes, with the maiden flight scheduled for 2014 and the first deliveries in 2016.

Russia's aircraft makers have also been hit by the crisis, and the government recently gave 30 billion rubles ($960 million) to several of them, Khristenko said Monday. An Industry and Trade Minister spokeswoman said half of the amount went to the MiG fighter-jet maker, and the rest was distributed among the Kazan Aircraft Production Association and engine builders Motorostroitel, Chernysheva and Saturn, which is a developer of the SSJ-100's twin engines.