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Royal Air Maroc expects to receive the first of its delayed 787 aircraft from Boeing Co. (BA) before the end of the year, the country's industry minister said Monday.
The state-controlled Moroccan flag carrier is the European launch customer for the jet, having agreed a firm order for four in 2005 that were slated to arrive by the end of 2008 before production and design issues pushed back the aircraft's introduction.
Ahmed Chami, Morocco's minister of industry, trade and new technologies, said in an interview in Chicago that the airline expected its first 787 to arrive by year-end. He plans to visit Boeing in Seattle this week, and aerospace is one of a number of industry "clusters" where Morocco plans to expand, leveraging its proximity to Europe and low labor costs.
Boeing has said it plans to deliver as many as 20 787s this year, with the first for All Nippon Airways Co. (9202.TO), or ANA, arriving in the third quarter. Media reports had suggested all of the 2011 deliveries would be to Asia-based carriers, including Japan Airlines Corp., China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. (1055.HK) and Air India, as well as ANA.
The manufacturer has already painted Royal Air Maroc's first 787--the third to move down the production line and the first with engines from General Electric Co. (GE)--but declined to comment on when the Moroccan airline would receive its first planes.
"With the exception of the first delivery to ANA, we are not identifying the order (or dates) in which customers will receive their 787s," the company said in a statement. "We'll deliver airplanes when they're ready, which will not always be in the order that they went down the production line."
Casablanca-based Royal Air Maroc has been developing the city as a gateway to Africa and operates 41 Boeing 737s, the largest fleet of the type in the region.
The airline has been viewed as a candidate for part-privatization in recent years, though Chami discounted any imminent move.
"Today, there are no plans to privatize," he said.
-By Doug Cameron, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-750-4135; email@example.com