By Brenda Goh
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Planemaker Bombardier Inc aims to close deals with Chinese airlines in upcoming months and is in talks with the country's three biggest airlines, a senior Bombardier executive said on Tuesday.
Marc Meloche, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft's head of structured finance, said in an interview the planemaker was also in discussions with leasing businesses on purchasing its C-Series plane. He spoke to Reuters while in China.
Meloche said he hoped the deals could be announced during a visit by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to China next month.
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"Prime Minister Trudeau is coming to China next month so there is optimism that Bombardier will be among those able to announce deals on that trip," he said.
In Ottawa, a Canadian government official said Trudeau would not be going to China in October.
Lu Shaye, China's ambassador to Canada, told an Ottawa reception on Tuesday evening that Trudeau would visit China "in the near future", according to a speech posted on China's Canadian embassy website on Wednesday. Officials familiar with the visit said it was likely to take place in December.
Canadian government officials have previously said Trudeau is expected to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam on Nov. 11-12.
Asked about the comment by the Canadian government official on Trudeau's travel, a Bombardier spokesman in Montreal did not offer an immediate comment.
Meloche added that China's interest is high. "Bombardier is talking to all three big Chinese airlines, as well as many regional (players) and startups. All are very interested in the Bombardier C-Series," he said.
Bombardier is pushing hard for orders in China, the world’s fastest-growing aviation market, at a time when it faces threats to U.S. sales of the C-Series single-aisle jet because of a trade dispute with U.S. rival Boeing Co.
The U.S. government on Tuesday slapped steep preliminary anti-subsidy duties on sales of C-Series jets over that dispute.
The C-Series competes with some aircraft made by Brazil's Embraer SA, as well as the smallest planes made by Boeing and Airbus.
Meloche also said that several Chinese lessors, many of which were looking at sale-and-leaseback opportunities, had issued term sheets in support of C-Series deliveries.
New rules requiring Chinese airline startups to operate at least 25 smaller-city hopper jets before graduating to bigger aircraft have also fueled hopes of Chinese demand for C-Series jets.
While current C-Series models accommodate 110 to 130 seats, above China's 100-seat limit for regional jets, Meloche said Bombardier can make adjustments to meet the requirements.
He also said Bombardier could expand its activities at China's Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, which already makes part of the fuselage for its C-series and Q-series aircraft.
But unlike Boeing and Airbus, which are expanding production facilities in China, he said Bombardier had not discussed the possibility of a separate aircraft plant in the country.
(Additional Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by David Goodman, Matthew Lewis and Muralikumar Anantharaman)