By Tim Hepher
DOHA (Reuters) - Gulf carrier Qatar Airways and Boeing <BA.N> will hold a news conference on Friday, a spokeswoman for Qatar Airways told Reuters on Wednesday, as a big sale of Boeing widebody jetliners looked close to being clinched.
Qatar Airways is in the process of firming up the order, which was delayed by the Qatari government in an effort to speed up U.S. approval of its purchase of Boeing fighter jets, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.
If the deal is finalised, it would give the Chicago-based planemaker a substantial sales boost in a year when orders for widebody planes has slumped.
Last Wednesday, the United States began notifying lawmakers informally that it had approved the sales of 36 Boeing F-15 fighter jets to Qatar, valued at about $4 billion.
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Last week people familiar with the situation said Qatar Airways was in the process of firming up an order for Boeing jets, which it was due to have placed at July's Farnborough airshow in Britain.
The deal was delayed by the Qatari government in an effort to speed up U.S. approval for the fighter contract, one of the sources said.
The deal postponed in July was a top-up deal for about five Boeing 777-300ER worth $1.7 billion at list prices, people familiar with the talks said, but the order could expand as the Gulf airline continues to target significant growth despite concerns over the Gulf economy.
Bloomberg last week reported the deal was for at least 30 Boeing 777 and 787 jets, valued at about $6.7 billion at list prices.
The airline is also in talks for about two dozen Boeing 737 MAX jetliners, aviation market sources said.
Boeing and Qatar Airways declined to comment on the details of Friday's planned announcement.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said in August that the airline planned to make a major aircraft order to enable its network expansion plans.
Separately, Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said the company is making progress on a deal to provide more than 100 commercial airplanes to Iran though none will be delivered in 2016.
(Reporting by Tom Finn; Editing by Louise Ireland and James Dalgleish)