Vietnam has signed an agreement to acquire 12 Boeing 787 twinjets, although the deal is not yet being listed by the airframer as a firm order.

A spokesman for Boeing confirms that state-owned Vietnam Airlines has agreed to acquire four 787s, while a newly-established aircraft leasing firm, Vietnam Aircraft Leasing (VALC) – of which the carrier is an equity partner - will purchase the balance.

Vietnam Airlines has been expanding its long-haul fleet with Boeing 777-200ERs and already has four 787s on order for delivery in 2009 and 2010. In early October it signed a memorandum of understanding with Boeing for 12 more 787s for delivery from 2015. The Vietnamese Government set a deadline for today to sign the deal.

“What’s happened here in Hanoi in the last few hours is that Vietnam Airlines put together a signing ceremony to take [the MOU] to the next step, and what they’ve done is they’ve divided up the 12 airplanes into four that will be purchased by the airline and eight that will be purchased by…VALC,” says the Boeing spokesman.

VALC will lease the eight 787s to Vietnam Airlines. “What it does is allows the airline a little more flexibility in building their fleet,” he says.

Boeing still must work out “a few details” with the Vietnamese companies before the deal is considered fully finalized and can be listed on the manufacturer’s orders and deliveries web site. “We hope that that is going to happen within the next month or so,” says the Boeing spokesman. “The goal is to have it booked by the end of the year.”

He adds: “In the eyes of the airline and the leasing company, they are fully committed.”

Vietnam’s Government has also imposed a December 21 deadline to order 10 Airbus A350-900 XWBs and 20 Airbus A321s.