French PM oversees major deal with Emirates
DUBAI: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe yesterday hailed the signing in Dubai of a $16 billion purchase by Emirates Airlines of the Airbus A380 superjumbo commercial airliner. “This is obviously excellent news for the French aerospace industry and for the European industry as a whole, as it allows Airbus to consider continuing production of the A380,” the visiting premier told reporters on the sidelines of the World Government Summit. The deal was signed by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, the Emirates chairman and CEO of Emirates, and Mikhail Houari, president of Airbus Middle East. In December, Emirates agreed to buy 20 of the double-decker aircraft with an optional 16 more, just days after the European manufacturer said it would have to halt production if no new orders were received. The economics of the 853-seat, four-engine A380 have proved daunting, with airlines having to operate every flight at full capacity in order to make a profit.
The Emirates order was in question after the November Dubai Airshow, when the UAE airline inked a deal with competitor Boeing to buy 40 Dreamliners for more than $15 billion. Yesterday’s closing of the deal represents a lifeline for Airbus. A major transcontinental air routes transit hub, Dubai is one of several Gulf-based airports to have experienced prodigious growth in recent years. Dubai airport was the world’s busiest for international passengers in 2017 for the fourth year running, with 88.2 million travellers. Philippe promised lower taxes and a business-friendly France at a global summit in Dubai yesterday, seeking investment from the oil-rich Gulf region. “France is undergoing great transformation”, Philippe said, addressing a thousand-strong audience at Dubai’s World Government Summit. The prime minister pledged a “favorable framework for business and investment” and a drop in corporate taxes in France.
The annual summit, often dubbed the Davos of the Middle East, brings together a cosmopolitan lineup of business and political figures-with Indian Premier Narendra Modi as this year’s guest of honor.
Philippe sought to contrast the policies of President Emmanuel Macron with the isolationist trends of other Western nations, including Britain leaving the European Union and the election of US President Donald Trump. On Saturday, the French premier met the heads of the two largest sovereign funds in the United Arab Emirates, as well as Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
“What I felt was their continued interest in what we were doing and prospects available in France,” he said. No concrete agreements have yet been announced. With sovereign funds worth more than $800 billion, but only a fraction of that-around $3 billion-invested in France, Paris is working to capture a larger share of UAE petrodollars. “We must make our country more attractive to foreign investors, and there is work to be done,” Philippe told members of the French community living in the United Arab Emirates late Saturday, speaking on board a French military vessel docked in Dubai harbor.
The United Arab Emirates hosts three French military bases. It has also become a major contributor to the French-backed coalition fighting jihadists in Africa’s Sahel region, pledging $30 million in December. -AFP