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SAS signs $3.3 billion MOU with Airbus for 12 new jets

A loader sits in the cargo bay of an SAS Boeing 737 aircraft parked at Arlanda airport's Terminal Five, north of Stockholm November 13, 2012
A loader sits in the cargo bay of an SAS Boeing 737 aircraft parked at Arlanda airport's Terminal Five, north of Stockholm November 13, 2012

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Scandinavian airline SAS said on Tuesday it had signed a $3.3 billion preliminary deal with Airbus for the delivery of 12 new passenger jets and would upgrade some of its existing aircraft in a comprehensive overhaul of its long-haul fleet.

SAS, part-owned by Sweden, Norway and Denmark, said in a statement the agreement covered orders of eight Airbus A350-900 aircraft and four A330-300 Enhanced.

The carrier has been eyeing an upgrade of its ageing long-distance fleet and late last year struck a deal with unions and lenders to put the airline, which has suffered heavy losses in recent years, on more secure footing.

"It will truly increase our competitiveness and strengthen our customer offering," SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson said of the fleet renewal. "Furthermore, we are able to significantly bring down fuel consumption which will lower our costs and support our goals to reduce emissions."

EADS-owned Airbus only last week secured orders for a total of 466 aircraft worth $69 billion at list prices to put the European planemaker just ahead of its U.S. arch-rival Boeing at the Paris Airshow.

The SAS said its fleet plan would be funded by export credit financing and a sale and lease-back arrangement. The A350-900s would be delivered starting in 2018 and the A330-300s beginning in 2015, the airline added.

SAS said it would also upgrade the cabins of up to seven of its A330/A340 aircraft as part of the fleet renewal.

(Reporting by Niklas Pollard; editing by Alistair Scrutton)

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