It has been freshly confirmed:
Wednesday February 21 4:15 PM ET
Boeing, KAL Discuss 747X Freighter
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Korean Air Lines Co. could buy up to 16 superjumbo 747X freighters from Boeing Co., trade magazine Flight International reported in its latest edition.
Boeing was in "advanced discussions'' aimed at making KAL the launch customer for the 747X stretch cargo plane in a deal that would include about $200 million in financing from the Seattle-based aerospace giant, the article stated, citing unnamed Boeing and KAL sources.
With a likely list price of about $200 million per 747X, the order for eight planes plus eight options could be worth as much as $3 billion, though as a launch customer KAL would receive hefty discounts.
Boeing has not yet landed an order for its proposed 747X family, its answer to rival Airbus Industrie's massive 555-seat A380 double-decker jet.
Boeing spokesman Russ Young declined to give details on 747X negotiations or KAL specifically. Company officials privately have named many of the world's current 747 operators, including transpacific carriers, among the 747X target group.
Historically one of Boeing's best customers, KAL has ordered 54 of the 747s since the model's launch in 1970, bolstering the case for possible 747X orders.
The 747X concept includes a 522-seat stretch model, plus smaller versions adding flight range or seating capacity to the current model 747-400.
Boeing officials have discussed launching the 747X program with the freighter variant, which would be an unprecedented move. Industry experts have said the 747X could not succeed without a passenger version as well.
Beset by a weak Korean currency, surging fuel costs and tax evasion penalties, KAL lost money in 2000, and with a sharp economic slowdown expected in South Korea this year, some analysts project a loss in 2001 as well.
That would require Boeing financing for any KAL 747X order, plus delayed repayment of previous loans and deferred deliveries of two 777-300 widebodies and a 747-400, Flight reported.
Boeing has yet to offer KAL a formal 747X proposal, Flight reported, echoing statements by other carriers that Boeing's superjumbo blueprints were not yet firm.
By contrast, Airbus has booked 60 A380 orders from seven customers, including cargo giant FedEx Corp. (NYSE:FDX - news).
Flight also reported that Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Northwest Airlines Corp. were interested in the 747X stretch freighter, while Atlas Air Inc. and Cargolux Airlines International were also considering the aircraft.