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Bombardier 'could seek bailout from Stormont' to tackle job cuts impact

Cash injection needed to soften blow of job losses

By John Mulgrew

Published 25/10/2016

The C Series jet aircraft is part-made by Bombardier in Belfast
The C Series jet aircraft is part-made by Bombardier in Belfast

Bombardier could seek a bailout from Stormont in a bid to quell the impact of hundreds of looming job cuts, it's been claimed.

The Canadian plane maker announced a further 7,500 staff cuts globally, prompting fears of hundreds of job losses here in Northern Ireland.

However, elsewhere in Northern Ireland's aerospace sector, the sale of Co Down's B/E Aerospace to US firm Rockwell Collins has been welcomed as a "positive step" by one former senior Short Brothers executive.

Meanwhile, another aviation expert said Bombardier will be looking for "public and private financial support", including from Stormont, which could be a "likely avenue for Bombardier". Bombardier has already received $1bn from the Quebec Government to bailout its struggling CSeries programme, which is part-made in Belfast.

It comes after it was revealed the Executive is part-funding a £9m package to keep United Airlines' Belfast to Newark flight.

And Dr Esmond Birnie, economist with Ulster University, said: "Yes, the Quebec provincial Government have already taken a stake in Bombardier in return for a subsidy of about $1bn.

"The company has similarly been seeking a very large cash injection from the Canadian national government - it remains to be seen whether that will be forthcoming. This may be one reason why the UK authorities (including Stormont) have not rushed in - they are waiting to see if the Canadian government is going to be forthcoming."

And in theory, Stormont could provide assistance, along the same lines as the Belfast to Newark route as it's deemed to be of "such a wide strategic interest to the broader Northern Ireland economy". But while Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole remain part of the EU, it may be hamstrung by rules around State aid and other legal concerns. In one case, a transatlantic trade aircraft war is now on the cards after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled against the EU over billions of pounds given to French giant Airbus.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton did not respond when asked whether his department would consider financial support.

Last week he said: "I will do everything I can to fight to save as many Bombardier jobs in Northern Ireland as possible".

Elsewhere, speaking about the takeover of B/E Aerospace in Kilkeel, Martin J Craigs, said: "The acquisition of B/E Aerospace by Rockwell Collins has many potential upsides for the Northern Ireland aerospace supply chain. Rockwell Collins is a long-standing and much respected US-based company.

"They are, I can confirm, from personal experience, exceptionally well connected with the world's airliner and corporate jet users."

Mr Craigs, who is also chairman of Aerospace Forum Asia, said the skills of both firms combines "areas of expertise which are complementary".

"The demand for B/E Aerospace's high quality passenger seats is strong and Rockwell Collins can add to their sophistication with enhanced features and connectivity. This deal can give the Northern Ireland aerospace supply chain greater access to fast expanding global markets."

Rockwell chief executive officer Kelly Ortberg told Reuters the deal should produce cost savings of around $160m (£130.7m).

SDLP MP for North Down, Margaret Ritchie, said that as one of the area's largest employers "it is imperative that any significant changes in ownership or management are swiftly followed by assurances" that jobs will be secured.

Belfast Telegraph

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