Boeing Nears Deal to Sell Jetliners to Iran

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

Iran is preparing to announce an agreement to buy jetliners that could be valued at about $25 billion.

The transaction would be the first by the planemaker since sanctions were lifted in January and would require U.S. government approval. An order listed at $27 billion announced by Europe’s Airbus Group also needs a U.S. Treasury Department license before it can be finalized. Buyers typically negotiate discounts from list prices.

Boeing could land a comparable deal if the U.S. company can navigate the appropriate government permissions, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said early this month.

“You can anticipate that that’s potentially a 50-50 kind of marketplace for Boeing and Airbus, and we’re going to battle it out competitively,” Muilenburg said.

Minister Abbas Akhoundi, in an address to the Iranian parliament, referred to a Boeing agreement “within the coming days,” according a statement Monday on the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development website. He said the country needs to invest about $50 billion to bolster its fleet with 400 mid- and long-range jetliners and 100 short-haul planes.

Boeing has talked with Iranian airlines “about potential purchases of Boeing commercial passenger airplanes and services,” spokesman Tim Neale said by email.

“We do not discuss details of ongoing conversations we are having with customers, and our standard practice is to let customers announce any agreements that are reached,” he said.

Chicago-based Boeing faces risks as it vies with Airbus and others to replace Iran’s museum-piece fleet. A deal could spark political backlash, given Iranian leaders’ penchant for anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli rhetoric. Boeing also may need to leave wiggle room to back out of any potential orders if the next U.S. president decides to reinstate sanctions.