PARIS, June 30 (Reuters) - Airbus plans to build a second plant in China after winning an order for at least 45 jets that underpins its production goals for the wide-body A330, chief executive Fabrice Bregier said on Tuesday.
Airbus has been negotiating for about 18 months to establish an A330 'cabin completion centre' in China alongside an existing final assembly plant for smaller A320 jets in Tianjin.
An agreement to build a plant capable of fitting out 2 A330s a month is expected to be signed during a visit to Toulouse by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Thursday.
"We are going to launch the project. I think we have a good base. We hope to have more orders in the future, but it's a project which makes a lot of sense and which gives us an advantage against our competition," Bregier told Reuters after a signing ceremony.
Bregier was speaking shortly after China placed an order for 45 A330 aircraft worth at least $11 billion, together with provisional purchases of another 30 planes.
The deal, coming on top of a recent sale of 20 planes to Saudi Arabia, lifts uncertainty over production levels of the A330, which Airbus has been forced to reduce while preparing to revamp the profitable but ageing jet with new engines.
"This should help us a lot to maintain a production rate of six a month that we announced for the transition," Bregier said. (Reporting by Tim Hepher, editing by Astrid Wendlandt)