Beijing (AFP) March 2, 2011
A unit of China's biggest plane maker has agreed to buy US small aircraft builder Cirrus, in what state media said Wednesday was the country's first acquisition of a US or European competitor.
China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co (CAIGA), part of state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, signed a "definitive" agreement to acquire Cirrus Industries Inc, the companies said in a statement.
"We are very optimistic to begin our partnership with Cirrus and add Cirrus's strong brand as the cornerstone in our aviation product portfolio," Meng Xiangkai, the Chinese firm's president, said in the statement dated Tuesday.
Cirrus is the world's second largest general aircraft maker after Cessna by the number of planes delivered, the companies said.
The US company said its single-engine Cirrus SR22 family of aircraft has been the world's best-selling four-seat airplane for nine years.
Its general-purpose aircraft are mainly used as private planes or serve purposes other than security, military and public transportation.
The companies expect the deal, which is still subject to Chinese and US regulators' approval, to close in April.
No financial details were disclosed.
The state-run China Daily hailed the deal as "an important step for (CAIGA's) global expansion", adding it would be a springboard for the Chinese firm to enter the United States, the world's largest general aviation market.
Cirrus delivered nearly 5,000 piston-engine airplanes to 58 countries and regions over the past decade, but only about nine of those were sold to buyers in mainland China, the newspaper cited Meng as saying.
CAIGA will market three Cirrus aircraft and service them on the mainland, Meng said, adding it was considering a production line in China to bring down the cost of Cirrus planes.
Brent Wouters, Cirrus's president and chief executive officer, said in the statement the deal would benefit his company and have a positive impact on jobs.
"CAIGA brings new resources that will allow us to expedite our aircraft development programmes and accelerate our global expansion," he said, adding the Chinese firm would continue to use Cirrus' US production facilities.
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