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Canada poised to bail out beleaguered Bombardier CSeries

By Margaret Canning

Published 29/10/2015

Expert: Guy Warner
Expert: Guy Warner

Aerospace giant Bombardier, which employs 5,500 people in Belfast, is set to announce Canadian government investment in its beleaguered CSeries programme, according to reports.

The wings of the narrow-body jet are made in Belfast in what is Northern Ireland's biggest-ever inward investment programme, worth £520m.

But sales of the CSeries - a challenger in a market dominated by Airbus and Boeing - have been disappointing, with just 243 sold instead of the projected 300.

The project has been delayed by around three years and is also around £1bn over budget.

However, Reuters last night reported the government of Quebec, the Canadian province where Bombardier is based, will be investing in the programme.

That means a major lifeline for the project, which will bring reassurances for Bombardier's massive operation in Northern Ireland. Bombardier is based in Montreal, Quebec and Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell this week visited its headquarters as part of a trade mission to Canada.

Northern Ireland aviation author Guy Warner said the intervention of government in Quebec was "an excellent idea".

"I suppose it is what governments should do, and intervene if they can to help employment and business. It is certainly very good news for Belfast, and I am certainly very hopeful."

The CSeries wings facility in east Belfast was to employ 800 people at full capacity - but it is understood around 300 staff are currently working on the composite wings.

Bombardier earlier turned to arch-rival Airbus as a possible partner in the programme but talks between the two aerospace firms ended in failure.

It has also said it was in talks with North American and European airlines about potential orders though there have been no announcements of fresh orders. According to Reuters, Bombardier is also set to abandon its Learjet 85 programme. The company announced it was suspending the programme in January this year.

Its bailout by the Quebec government will take the form of a joint venture in the CSeries jet.

Bombardier will have to write off billions of dollars which it has already spent on the programme.

The CSeries is expected to enter service next year, with SwissAir the first customer to fly the jet commercially.

Bombardier employs 18,000 people in Quebec - making the stakes extremely high for the government there.

After visiting Bombardier headquarters in Mirabel, Montreal on Tuesday, Mr Bell said he had observed a "vast and busy factory floor".

"While I recognise that Bombardier faces challenges, the management team is confident these can be overcome and that more sales will follow," he said.

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