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C919 gets ICBC's backing in marketing globally

ICBC Financial Leasing Co, China's biggest financial leasing company, is to start promotingsales of the domestically built C919 airliner-the narrow-body aircraft being produced byCommercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd.

The first prototype of the C919, to be used for test flights, was off the assembly line on Monday atCOMAC's Shanghai factory.

ICBC Financial Leasing is so far the C919's biggest individual launching client, having placed 45orders. But Cong Lin, its chairman, says it will be taking an active part in promoting the aircraftinternationally, after the two sides signed a strategic agreement at the 2015 China Aviation Expoin Beijing in September.

Cong said some of its other foreign clients had expressed interest in placing orders for theC919, after Bangkok-based City Airways recently signed an option for 10 of the aircraft throughICBC Financial Leasing.

"The City Airways' orders show the international market is receptive to China-made aircraft,"Cong said.

Jiang Bo, the head of aviation finance at ICBC Financial Leasing, said that with an establishednetwork of more than 40 overseas clients across six continents, the company has a strongadvantage in promoting the C919 globally,

"Our experience on the international market could prove invaluable for this and other China-madeairplane manufacturers, in their efforts to expand globally," Jiang said.

The leasing company's international talents offer financial and consulting services to overseasclients in both Beijing and Dublin of Ireland, which is an important center for global aircraft leasingindustry, Jiang said.

The company is also able and willing to provide financing solutions to other C919 clients, hesaid.

Initially, COMAC has focused on C919 sales at home and in the Asia-Pacific and Africa, butJiang now expects that to expand quickly to other markets.

"We are including the promotion of the C919 within our own global marketing activities," he said, "but we are realistic that we have to be patient."

Jiang said the C919 could prove a hard-sell globally given that it is still only at the test-flightstage, with conceivably many months of testing ahead before the aircraft can start being built innumbers and delivered.

Industry insiders have confirmed that potential international clients have been hesitant, andsuggested that COMAC has been slow too with its own global marketing.

Zhang Yugui, dean of the school of economics and finance at Shanghai International StudiesUniversity, said: "It has focused for years on manufacturing, but a solid marketing and serviceinfrastructure is yet to be put in place."

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