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Ryanair closing in on major Boeing order: sources

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Low-cost Irish airline Ryanair is closing in on a deal to buy at least 150 Boeing 737 passenger jets and the contract could be signed within weeks, industry sources said.

Most or all of the planes would likely be current generation 737s rather than the upcoming Max upgrade, which would allow Ryanair to secure a significant discount on the list price, two of the sources said on Wednesday.

A large order of current generation 737s would help Boeing ensure no fall in production as customers hold out for the Max, scheduled to enter service in 2017.

Ryanair chief financial officer Howard Millar told a conference the airline was in talks about the purchase of up to 200 Boeing aircraft, according to a delegate. The conference was closed to the media.

A Ryanair spokesman said later the airline was in the market for 100-200 planes. A Boeing executive declined comment.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary had told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that talks with Boeing, which have been ongoing for several years, were unlikely to yield a deal until late this year or early 2014.

Several industry executives visiting a conference in Dublin said it would likely happen sooner.

A deal would be a boost for Boeing as it seeks to sort out problems with its new 787 airliner.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher and Conor Humphries; Editing by Dan Lalor)