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Kingfisher Buys Airbus Jets Worth $3 Billion

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India's Kingfisher Airlines on Wednesday signed contracts for 15 Airbus aircraft, including five superjumbo A380s, in a USD$3 billion deal designed to capitalize on India's fast-growing air traffic market.

The recently launched low-cost airline is the brainchild of tycoon Vijay Mallya, whose UB Group makes Kingfisher beer, India's top-selling brand, and a host of lifestyle goods.

Kingfisher said it had ordered five mid-sized long-haul A350 aircraft, five twin-deck A380s and five mid-sized A330s.

The aircraft are worth USD$3 billion at list prices, according to Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard.

Mallya -- who is often compared to fellow entrepreneur Richard Branson, whose Virgin brands include Britain's second largest long-haul carrier Virgin Atlantic -- signed the contract after watching the A380 perform a demonstration flight.

Kingfisher had flagged a major order earlier this week.

The deal brings firm orders for the A380, the world's largest commercial plane, up to 149, and added to a string of large orders from Indian carriers which has been a highlight at this week's Paris Air Show.

Deliveries of the Kingfisher A330s are due to begin in the third quarter of 2007, and those of the superjumbo double-deck A380s in 2010, while deliveries of the planned A350 jets will begin in 2012.

"It should be a no-brainer to fill an A380 in five years' time," Mallya said at the signing ceremony in Le Bourget, adding that Indian air travel was set to expand dramatically.

Engine selections are yet to be announced.

Kingfisher said it will use the A330s on regional routes, including flights to Europe, while the A350s and A380s are for longer non-stop flights.

Kingfisher has already ordered 10 A320 aircraft and three A319s, and has options on a further 20 single-aisle aircraft.

(Reuters)