Air Berlin will buy or lease 25 Boeing 787-8s in a deal signed on July 7 that is worth $4 billion at list prices, representing the largest 787 order to date for a European carrier.

The deal also includes 10 options and 15 purchase rights for 787s for Air Berlin, which is Europe’s third-largest low-fare carrier.

The 787 will “secure a long-term future of the Air Berlin Group’s long-haul capability,” said Joachim Hunold, chief executive officer of Air Berlin, but he added that the twin-aisle jets will serve as fleet replacements.

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Air Berlin expects to receive its first 25 aircraft from 2013 to 2017, but the exact financing scheme may not be determined for several years.  

“How many aircraft will, in the end, be leased or purchased will depend on the prevailing market and will only be decided closer to delivery,” the airline said. “The interest of both banks and leasing companies in such financing is already significant.”

Until then, the airline will make pre-delivery payments through 2010 with a total value of a “mid-double-digit million dollar amount,” the airline said.

Air Berlin’s order was signed in Seattle on the eve of the public debut of the first fully-assembled 787. The contract brings the twinjet’s total firm orders to 677.

Air Berlin has not announced an engine or avionics supplier.

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