In another big sales win for Boeing, the Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air will today sign a preliminary agreement to buy as many as...

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In another big sales win for Boeing, the Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air will today sign a preliminary agreement to buy as many as 60 Renton-built 737 jets, a person close to the deal confirmed.

Crucially, the order may prove the launch pad for a new derivative of the 737.

Lion wants a mix of 737-800s and 737-900Xs, the person said. The 737-900X is a stretched derivative seating 200 to 220 passengers. Boeing has been seeking launch partners for a couple of years.

The value of the deal, depending on the precise model mix, would start at around $3.5 billion at list prices — although discounts of as much as 30 percent are typical.

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Founded in 1999, Lion currently flies a fleet of 34 aircraft, mostly older MD-80s and 737 classics. The purchase will rapidly expand the airline, allowing it to begin flights around the Asia-Pacific region.

The preliminary deal will be signed in Washington, D.C., where Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is on a state visit.

Susilo, who heads the most populous Muslim nation in the world, wants to improve relations with the U.S. and expand military-to-military cooperation. He met yesterday with President Bush in the Oval Office.

The Lion Air order is expected to be finalized within a month.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com