Low-cost Saudi carrier flynas has concluded an $8.6 billion purchase deal with Airbus, a major shareholder said Thursday, as competition grows in the kingdom's expanding market.
Kingdom Holding Co, which owns a 34 percent stake in the airline, said flynas has finalised the "deal with Airbus for the purchase of new aircraft".
It gave no details of the number or type of planes that flynas will acquire but a source close to the negotiations told AFP they are from the A320 family of single-aisle aircraft.
Bloomberg News reported Wednesday that a flynas order for A320 short- to medium-haul jets was imminent, and that the airline had been considering a deal for 60 planes with an option on 40 more.
The 10-year-old airline exclusively operates the A320, with a fleet of 29 as of last February, according to its website. It serves 33 domestic and international destinations in the Arabian Peninsula and immediate vicinity.
With new-found cash flow and profitability, flynas is ready to expand its fleet -- currently all leased -- to more than 100 planes over the next decade, CEO Paul Byrne told arabianbusiness.com in an interview last March.
He said flynas passenger numbers were expected to rise from 5.5 million in 2015, and that there was room for growth even as competition increased.
"Nobody knows how big the Saudi market is yet," he was quoted as saying.
Two new entrants, Nesma and SaudiGulf, have launched domestic flights.
State-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines, known as Saudia, is the dominant player and aims to expand its own fleet to 200 aircraft by 2020.
Saudia flew more than 29 million passengers in 2015, and in June last year placed an $8-billion order with Airbus for 50 planes for domestic flights.
- Saudi diversifies economy
Under its wide-ranging Vision 2030 plan announced in April, Saudi Arabia aims to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
Among the measures is development of the tourism sector, privatisation of state-owned services including airports, and a linking of transport networks to position Saudi Arabia as a regional logistics hub.
Even before it unveiled its economic reform plan, the Arab world's largest economy was spending billions of dollars on building and upgrading airports.
Riyadh-based Kingdom Holding is chaired and 95 percent owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
It is a vast global investor with shares in the Euro Disney theme park, Apple, News Corporation and US banking giant Citigroup, among others.
Airbus said on Wednesday that it had outstripped its own delivery expectations in 2016, closing the gap with Boeing and beating its US rival on orders.
The European manufacturer said it delivered a record 688 commercial planes, exceeding its own target which was raised in November from 650 to 670.
The figures were buoyed by a last-minute surge in December when it delivered 111 aircraft.
Airbus also booked a total of 731 net orders, beating Boeing despite a significant drop on the previous year when it logged demand for 1,036 aircraft.
Last week, Boeing confirmed orders of 668 planes throughout the year, also down 13 percent on 2015 when net orders reached 768.