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December 13, 2008

Vietnam carrier to buy six ATR-72s at $112m
National carrier Vietnam Airlines signed a $112 million contract on Friday to buy six turboprop ATR 72-500 planes from ATR, a joint venture between EADS and Finmeccanica, despite falling tourism in the country, reported Reuters.

The first plane would be delivered in June 2009 and the last one would arrive in February 2010, Vietnam Airlines CEO Pham Ngoc Minh said in a speech prepared for the signing ceremony in Hanoi.

The contract followed a deal by the unlisted Hanoi-based airliner of five ATR 72s signed in December 2007.

"With today's purchase of six further ATR 72-500s, we will satisfy the increasing demand for services on short-haul routes," Minh said.

Vietnam Airlines, under pressure to boost falling tourism in the Southeast Asian country as the global financial crisis hits, now has 50 aircraft in its fleet, including three ATR 72-500s and seven ATR 72-200s.

Minh said the airline would gradually replace the old model ATR 72-200 planes between July 2009 and May 2010 with the newer model ATR 72-500s and would have a total of 14 ATR 72-500s by 2010 "in preparation for the recovery of the aviation market".

Vietnam welcomed 3.9 million foreign visitors during the first 11 months of this year, up just 1.1 percent from the same period last year, when the country reported an annual tourist arrival growth of 17 percent.

Yet tourism is expected to generate $2 billion in revenues this year, on par with the actual inflow of official development assistance and which, along with an expected $8 billion in overseas remittances, would help offset a widening trade deficit, economists said.

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