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Airbus starts construction of completion center in China

European plane maker Airbus has broken the ground for a new facility in the Chinese city of Tianjin. The completion and delivery center is to give the final touches to the aviation giant's A330 wide-body planes.

Europe's largest aircraft manufacturer started construction Wednesday of a new facility to finish and deliver wide-body planes in China

amid fierce competition from Boeing

and other plane makers.

At a ground-breaking ceremony in the northern port city of Tianjin, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier and Chinese officials announced the new center would deliver two A330 planes per month, marking the firm's first such facility for wide-body aircraft outside Europe.

"It's a new milestone for Airbus' international footprint," Bregier said in China.

The center will take flyable, unpainted aircraft from production units in Toulouse, France, and add cabins, furnishings and paint, before the planes are delivered to customers.

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Increasing market share

Airbus officials said they were not worried about China's current economic slowdown. Bregier said "it's not true for our market." The head of Airbus China, Eric Chen, said the aircraft market in the Asian nation looked set to rise by 10 percent annually, thus growing much faster than other sectors.

The world's second-largest economy is already Asia's biggest plane buyer, with increased middle-class incomes and easing visa rules driving a boom in air travel.

Airbus' US rival Boeing is also planning to build a completion center in China. The two companies have been in a fierce battle for market share in China where Airbus has gone from 27 percent in 2004 to roughly 50 percent today.

hg/cjc (dpa, AFP)

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