By Tim Hepher and Valerie Insinna
PARIS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd is close to placing an order worth around $2 billion for Boeing 777-8F freighters as the Hong Kong carrier embarks on the partial renewal of a fleet of dedicated 747 cargo jets, industry sources said on Monday.
The selection follows a hard-fought battle for the business of one of the world’s top-five freight airlines, which had been comparing the all-freight version of the future Boeing 777X jet family with an upcoming cargo model of the existing Airbus A350.
Industry sources have said the competition involved an initial purchase of around half a dozen aircraft, worth some $2 billion at list prices before traditional airline discounts.
Cathay Pacific said it had no immediate announcement to make.
“We continue to invest in and grow our fleet with the addition of new, state-of-the-art and fuel-efficient aircraft,” a Cathay spokesperson said by email.
“We have no specific updates or announcements to make at this time regarding the fleet.”
Boeing and Airbus declined comment on commercial discussions.
Boeing launched the 777-8F freighter with an order from Qatar Airways in January 2022, six months after Airbus launched development of the A350 Freighter in a bid to weaken its U.S. rival’s traditional grip on the market for freighters.
Cathay Pacific told analysts last November it was looking at more freighter capacity and working “actively” with planemakers to acquire some of the new freighters coming up after 2025.
Situated at the heart of pre-pandemic trade lanes, Cathay’s decision on where to place bets for the next phase of its cargo development is seen as a key test for the two freighters because the airline operates underlying 777 and A350 passenger models.
Cathay Pacific is the world’s fifth-largest air freight carrier and the third-largest traditional freight airline behind Qatar Airways and Emirates when specialist express parcel carriers FedEx and UPS are excluded, according to latest available data from the International Air Transport Association.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Valerie Insinna; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Mike Harrison)