(Adds quotes, details)
* Airbus, Boeing eye world's fastest-growing major carrier
* Possible bond issue to fund expansion
* No board decision yet on closer Lufthansa ties
By Evrim Ergin and Nick Tattersall
ISTANBUL, Jan 24 Turkish Airlines, the world's
fastest-growing carrier, plans to order more than 100
narrow-body planes by the end of March, underlining its position
as a key client for global planemakers after buying billions of
dollars worth of larger models in 2012.
Chairman Hamdi Topcu told Reuters the airline would finalise
five new Airbus A330-300 orders this week on top of the 35
wide-body aircraft ordered from rivals Airbus and
Boeing last year, then focus on expanding its fleet of
"I cannot give an exact number for the narrow-body plane
orders, but it will very likely be over 100. We aim to finalise
this order by the end of March," Topcu said in an interview in
his office in Istanbul.
Industry sources had said Turkey's flag carrier was expected
to seek a large number of narrow-body jets, such as the 150-seat
Airbus A320, this year after ordering larger models in 2012.
French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq used an official visit to
Turkey this month to press Airbus' case for the business.
"We ordered 20 Boeing 777-300 and 15 Airbus A330-300 (last
year). We want them as soon as possible and are in talks to add
five more (A330s) to this order. We aim to finalise it this
week," Topcu said.
Turkish Airlines finalised an order worth $4.7 billion at
list prices for 15 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft last month, the
biggest order by value in the airline's history, and which the
U.S. planemaker said at the time included options for a further
five of the 365-seat aircraft.
Turkish Airlines also announced in October that it would buy
15 Airbus A330-300 planes between 2014-2016.
After launching 33 new destinations in 2012, the carrier
hopes to open as many as 40 new routes in 2013, around a quarter
of them to Africa, and will be flying to every country in Europe
by the end of the year, Topcu said.
POSSIBLE BOND ISSUE
The carrier, which aims to have 219 aircraft in its fleet by
the end of the year from a current 202, plans to lease seven
planes until the delivery of the ordered aircraft, Topcu said.
"In our fleet projection we will have over 350 planes in
2023, and this number could be even 380," Topcu said.
The company, 49 percent owned by the government with the
remainder floated on the Istanbul stock exchange, is considering
issuing a bond to finance its expansion, he said.
But he said a secondary public offering for the airline was
not currently on the government's agenda.
Topcu said Turkish Airlines was open to closer ties with
Lufthansa, but that there were currently no firm
"We are ready for any such cooperations ... but there is no
board decision taken," he said. "If the model to be formed is
going to be beneficial for both companies, we are open to any
kind of talks."
Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa have been working together
for some time, bolstered by Germany's large Turkish population,
the pair's membership of the Star Alliance marketing venture and
a 50-50 joint venture in charter carrier SunExpress.
Speculation about plans for closer ties between the two
airlines was triggered in November when Turkish Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan said he had discussed the issue with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Analysts have said any new cooperation could involve a
deeper code share agreement, a new joint venture on routes where
cost savings could be achieved, or in the longer term a
potential equity swap.
"Before any cooperation with Lufthansa we have to
investigate the Turkish, German and EU legal and regulatory
framework. This is going to be one of the most important
aspects," Topcu said.
(Editing by Sophie walker)