Boeing Firms Up Asia Foothold

The company signs definitive firm orders for 42 Dreamliners in China.
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Updated from 11:38 a.m. EDT

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

is making important progress on plans to sell more than $7 billion worth of 787 Dreamliner passenger jets to Chinese airlines.

Four airlines -- Air China, China Eastern, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines -- have signed definitive firm orders for 42 Dreamliners with list prices totaling $5.04 billion, China's official

Xinhua News Agency

reported Monday.

A Boeing spokeswoman, Yvonne Leach, confirmed the firm orders, which cement parts of a broader preliminary agreement struck in January to sell 60 Dreamliners to six Chinese airlines.

Two of the carriers -- Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines -- still haven't signed firm orders, but Leach said Boeing continues to work at completing those agreements.

Of the firm orders announced Monday, Air China has 15, China Eastern 15, Shanghai Airlines 9 and Xiamen Airlines 3. The orders underscore the growth of Chinese carriers, which are riding that country's red-hot economic boom.

They're also key votes of support for Boeing's planned 787, a mid-sized, long-range plane expected to go into service in 2008. Boeing now has 185 firm orders for the jet, which is being built with lightweight composite materials to boost fuel efficiency.

Separately, news emerged that Boeing is on track to win another 787 order, this one from Royal Air Maroc. The Moroccan flagship carrier said Monday it would soon begin talks with Boeing on buying four 787s with an option for a fifth, according to

Reuters

, which quoted a senior official of the airline saying it expected to ink a deal in September.

With the 787, Boeing is betting airlines will focus on direct, or so-called point-to-point, flights between cities. Archrival

Airbus

took a different strategy with its double-decker A380, which is designed to carry more than 500 passengers between large hub airports. But by proposing a planned competitor to the 787 last year, Airbus acknowledged the market's interest in a fuel-efficient, mid-sized plane.

Boeing shares were up 2 cents at $66.21.