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Brazil's Embraer says E175 efficiency gains beat estimates

SAO PAULO, March 12 (Reuters) - Brazil's Embraer SA said on Wednesday its latest E-175 regional jet has beaten initial expectations for fuel efficiency improvements, helping to keep the plane competitive until a next-generation model arrives in 2020.

New wingtips and other streamlining for the mid-generation upgrade improved fuel burn by 6.4 percent, according to a statement issued as Embraer rolled out the new plane. The company initially announced an efficiency boost of 5 percent.

The more efficient airliner helped Embraer nearly sweep big regional jet orders from airlines in the United States last year, racking up 177 firm orders, as well as 337 options and conditional orders, beating out rival Bombardier Inc.

Embraer Chief Executive Officer Frederico Curado told analysts last month that surprisingly strong fuel efficiency gains should help balance higher prices than originally forecast for the 75- to 90-seat E-175 as its replacement approaches.

The planemaker plans to overhaul its commercial jet lineup with new engines beginning in 2018, but the next-generation E-175 is not expected to enter service until 2020.

Shares of Embraer gained 0.1 percent in São Paulo to 20.28 reais on Wednesday. American depositary receipts of the company rose 0.2 percent to $34.34 in late New York morning trading.