Plane manufacturer Bombardier has announced that it has a letter of intent from an American airline that wants to buy up to 30 of its CSeries planes in a deal worth up to $2bn (£1.2bn).
The firm's Belfast plant makes the wings for the CSeries at its new Composite Wing Factory in Titantic Quarter where it has invested £520m. It has already delivered wings for a test airframe and once the facility is up to full capacity it will have created 800 new jobs.
Bombardier said the unnamed US company has signed a letter of intent to buy 12 C-Series jets, with options for another 18 aircraft.
A firm contract would be worth $870m (£835m) or up to $2.08bn (£1.27bn) if all of the options were exercised.
“We are thrilled with the worldwide momentum of interest being shown for the CSeries aircraft programme and we are pleased that customers in both our traditional aviation markets and growth markets are exploring opportunities and centring business cases around the use of the CSeries jetliners,” said Mike Arcamone, president at Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.
The Canadian-owned company said the wings for the first CSeries flight test vehicle are being joined to the fuselage at the company’s
final assembly plant in Mirabel, Que, after having arrived from Bombardier Aerospace Belfast.
The firm said on Wednesday that that hundreds of jobs in Northern Ireland could be at risk after the Competition Commission here rubber-stamped a move which will allow Phoenix Natural Gas — which operates and maintains the network — to increase customer bills.
Utility Regulator Shane Lynch — who has forecast that large firms could now pay tens of thousands of pounds extra for their gas bills — must modify Phoenix's licence after the decision, which will mean that average household gas bills will go up by £11 a year.
He had blocked Phoenix’s plans to raise every bill for the period 2012 to 2013 by £24 a year.
Phoenix argued that raising prices would attract future investment into the firm, and referred the issue to the Competition Commission, which has ruled in its favour.
A spokesman for Bombardier — one of the largest energy customers here — said that prices in the region were already damaging to larger businesses.
The company has plants in east Belfast and Newtownabbey which make parts for globally popular aircraft. The price increase will add to the costs of industry in Northern Ireland, it will make Northern Ireland less competitive and will risk jobs,” he said.
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In March, the Utility Regulator referred Phoenix Gas to the Competition Commission. Shane Lynch wanted to cut the price of gas for big business users in Northern Ireland to save big firms around £10,000 a year. But Phoenix said the proposals would reduce its ability to invest. The Competition Commission ruled in favour of Phoenix.