Airbus to hike investment in India to one billion dollars

NEW DELHI, Dec 7, 2006 (AFP) – Europe’s Airbus said Thursday it would hike investment in India to at least one billion dollars as it forecast the country would need 1,100 new planes over 20 years to meet soaring travel demand. The aircraft maker had pledged to plow back 500 million to 600 million dollars into India over the next decade as part of a 2.5-billion-dollar deal in early 2006 to sell 43 aircraft to state-owned carrier Indian, Airbus said.

“That (investment) has gone up to about a billion dollars … and it will be much more. This is just the beginning,” Airbus India president Kiran Rao said.

The commitment to spend on training, engineering and other projects came as Airbus forecast India would need 1,100 new aircraft over the next two decades — 935 passenger planes and 165 cargo — worth a total of 105 billion dollars.

India now has 198 planes.

Airbus added its forecast was “conservative” and improvements to India’s decrepit aviation infrastructure could mean even faster demand for planes.

“Strong demand in India is being unleashed by air transport deregulation, the emergence of a number of new operators, lower fares and a large untapped demand for air travel,” John Leahy, Airbus chief operating