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Bombardier praised by Robinson as it agrees latest deal

Bombardier is proving to be "the jewel in the crown of Northern Ireland industry" following yet another multi-million pound deal, the First Minister has said.

Peter Robinson's praise came as it emerged that the company - with bases in east Belfast and Newtownabbey - has scooped yet another contract, this time for Learjets, just a day after scooping a potential £4.5bn from a private aviation firm for 100 Challenger planes.

In the latest agreement, London Air Services (LAS), like Bombardier, headquartered in Canada, has placed firm orders for five Learjet 75 aircraft, valued at approximately $65m (£41m).

The entire fuselage of the aircraft is made in Northern Ireland. Around 300 people in Bombardier in Belfast work on the Learjet 75 programme, including operations and support staff.

It emerged on Tuesday that Bombardier is to supply at least 100 Challenger craft to Warren Buffet's upmarket private aviation firm NetJets in a deal worth $2bn (£1.3bn), but that total could rise to $7bn (£4.5bn) if options for a further 175 aircraft are taken up.

It won out over other global competitors including Gulfstream Aerospace, Brazil's Embraer, France's Dassault Aviation and Cessna Aircraft Co in the hard-fought sales campaign.

The 15-year aftermarket clause alone, involving a maintenance and parts service, is valued at $820m (£525m) and could climb to $2.3bn (£1.47bn) if all 275 planes are eventually sold.

Industry experts say that the order size was much larger than expected.

Mr Robinson said that the NetJets order was testament to the skills of the 400 workers on the Challenger production line in Northern Ireland and that continued business wins will be a huge boost to the economy here.

"Bombardier has proved to be a jewel in the crown of Northern Ireland industry," he said.

"These types of deal are particularly important if we want to improve Northern Ireland's GVA, one way to do that is by increasing exports and almost everything that Bombardier does here in Northern Ireland is export, worth millions and now even now literally billions generated and put into our economy.

"This type of news will help give a good base to increase the number of exports from Northern Ireland."

He added: "I want to pass my huge congratulations to the management at Bombardier for winning business from a company owned by Warren Buffet, one of the most discerning people in commerce.

"You know you are getting something right when you are getting those sorts of orders."