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China signs deal to purchase 123 Airbus helicopters

BEIJING (Reuters) - Airbus Group NV's helicopter division sealed a deal on Monday to sell 123 helicopters to Chinese companies during German Chancellor Angela Merkel's China visit.

The orders, including both light single-engine helicopters from Airbus Helicopters' Ecureuil family and the light twin-engine EC135, are being placed by three Chinese general aviation service providers, the company said in a statement.

“We are grateful to the operators for selecting Airbus Helicopters to be their partner in developing the general aviation market to serve China’s needs,” said Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury.

“It is evident that China’s relaxation of its low-altitude airspace regulations is enabling the country’s burgeoning helicopter market to realize its potential.”

Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa AG and China's flag carrier, Air China Ltd <601111.SS>, also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to expand and strengthen their partnership in a separate deal signed earlier on Monday.

The MOU should pave the way for a commercial joint venture between the two carriers, Lufthansa said. The airline did not provide further details.

The two carriers, both members of the Star Alliance, also said they were working to offer better flight connections, particularly on China-Europe routes, and expand collaboration in maintenance, repair and overall services.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Fang Yan in BEIJING; Editing by Paul Tait and Matt Driskill)

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