MONTREAL (AP) -- Bombardier Inc. has scored a major coup at Europe's premier aviation exhibition, selling its Skyjet International charter program and snagging firm and potential orders for 60 business jets from VistaJet of Switzerland.
The jet sale would be worth up to US$1.2 billion to Montreal-based Bombardier at current list prices if all the options are exercised.
Swiss-based Vista has placed firm orders for 35 business jets -- 11 Challenger 605s, 13 Learjet 60 XRs and 11 Learjet 85 jets.
The two companies have also signed a memorandum of understanding for VistaJet to buy Skyjet International, Bombardier's pioneering charter program.
Skyjet International, which was launched in March 2002, is based at Farnborough Airport near London and has installations in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong.
The transaction, whose value was not disclosed, doesn't affect Bombardier's Skyjet or Flexjet operations in North America.
''Skyjet International has been a solid platform for Bombardier and the time is now to blend our innovative offering with VistaJet, a leading business aviation provider that can apply additional expertise and provide dynamic leadership,'' said Bob Horner, senior vice-president of sales for Bombardier Business Aircraft.
''With the acquisition of Skyjet International, VistaJet will effectively become one of the largest aviation providers in the world.''
VistaJet is a privately owned company with a fleet of more than 30 medium- to ultra-long range jets with an average age of less than two years.
The order announced Tuesday would triple the size of the existing VistaJet fleet if all options are exercised.
With the acquisition of Skyjet International, VistaJet will offer its charter customers access to over 920 business jets worldwide.
''This is a strategic milestone for VistaJet, heralding-in a new era in our business as we expand our operations worldwide,'' said Bing Chen, VistaJet's chief executive officer.
''Our success is due in part to the popularity, reliability and proven performance of our Bombardier business jets, and as the demand for VistaJet offerings continues to increase, we are confident that our relationship with Bombardier will continue to produce exceptional results for our business.''
The final contract for the sale of Skyjet International VistaJet must be signed by the end of June, said Chen, who aims to make his company a world leader in business aviation by 2012.
Competition is fierce at Geneva's EBACE show, the main place for European aviation businesses to find products and services. The show is on until Thursday.
French aircraft maker Dassault announced the sale Tuesday of 20 Falcon jets to NetJets LX2000 for US $720 million. NetsJets is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the company headed by high-profile businessman Warren Buffet.
Bombardier closed at $7.67 on the TSX, up 1.5 percentage points.