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Eyes on Latin America, Antonov may sell more jets to Cuba.

Apparently using its leverage with close allies in Latin America, Cuba is trying to expand a previous order with Antonov Design Bureau from three An-158 jets to 10.

Quoting Antonov's Deputy General Designer, Alexander Keeva, Russia's Komersant daily reported that the Cuban government has reached an agreement in principle with the Ukrainian aircraft maker and Russia's Ilyushin Finance Co., and that the three sides are "getting close" to signing a final agreement.

Flag carrier Cubana de Aviacion, Antonov and Ilyushin Finance just completed high-altitude tests with a Cubana An-158 jet in Ecuador and Bolivia. The two Andean countries, both close allies of Cuba, apparently have expressed interest in purchasing the jets as well.

"During this expedition, following demands of potential customers from the region, Antonov ... and its partner Ilyushin Finance ... conduct the airplane tests under conditions of alpine airfields," Antonov said in a press release Nov. 15. "This expedition is an important constituent to promote the aircraft of the AN-148/AN-158 family into the market of Latin America."

Cubana is the first airline in the hemisphere to fly Antonov jets. Cubana de Aviacion this year began operating three new An-158 ordered in 2011, on routes from Havana to Santiago, Guantanamo, Holguin, Nassau, Santo Domingo, Cancun and Caracas.


During delivery of the third jet at an airshow in Moscow in August, Cuba reportedly signed an order for the leasing of three more An-158; the three additional jets were scheduled for delivery in 2014. Russia's Ilyushin Finance Co. is financing the leasing deal for the three aircraft under an agreement with Roseximbank.

Now, Cuba is negotiating delivery of seven more An-158 jets.

The An-158 is a midrange, 100-seater derivative of the Antonov-148. The jet is manufactured under Russian-Ukrainian cooperation with final assembly in Kiev, Ukraine. Sixty-five percent of its components are Russian-made; the jet also uses French, German and U.S. parts, but U.S. components represent under 10 percent, thus avoiding conflict with U.S. sanctions against Cuba.

Since 2004, Ilyushin Finance has de-livered three long-haul Il-96 and four medium-range Tu-204 to Cuba under a Russian state guarantee program that supports high-tech exports. The guarantees were provided through state bank Vneshekonombank (VEB), a subsidiary of Roseximbank.

Even though the Russian government has been guaranteeing and guiding Cuba's aircraft purchases, the going has not always been easy. In 2009, Flight International magazine reported that Cuba rejected delivery of one of three Tu-204 ordered in 2007. Cubana de Aviacion did not take the Tu-204-100CE cargo aircraft after Vneshtorgbank attempted to charge a higher interest rate than the agreed 8 percent.


Cuba went through a pronounced cash crunch in 2008-10, during which it froze hard-currency accounts and rescheduled debt agreements.

In February this year, Russia agreed to convert the previous purchase of five jets into a leasing deal. Russia is now leasing three previously delivered Ilyushin-96-400 long-haul jets and two Tu-204SM mid-range aircraft to Cuba through South American Aircraft Leasing Co., a Cyprus-based company with Russian owners. All three An-158 jets are leased from SAAL as well.
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Author:Werner, Johannes
Geographic Code:0LATI
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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