Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier's Delta deal is huge boost for NI operation

By John Mulgrew

Bombardier is putting the finishing touches on a huge deal with Delta Airlines for its new C Series plane — the wings for which are made in Belfast.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that the aviation giant has agreed a multi-billion dollar contract to supply up to 125 aircraft with the American firm — and confirmation is expected today.

Sources in Canada and the US say the deal being discussed is for a firm order for 75 planes and options on another 50.

 A firm order for that number of planes would be worth about £4.45bn at list prices, although industry analysts believe any deal would be at a discount from the list price of 50% or more.

A firm order for the 75 planes would be the largest single order for the plane and a huge boost for the C Series, which is is more than two years behind its original delivery schedule and hugely over budget. The production of wings for the C Series is Northern Ireland’s biggest-ever inward investment programme, worth £520m, and this imminent deal is bound to result in a major jobs boost to the Belfast operation, and offset the recent announcement of 1,000 redundancies.

The company’s Northern Ireland boss, meanwhile, has told staff the business is better off staying part of the European Union.

Michael Ryan sent a memo to his more than 5,000-strong workforce, most of whom are based in Belfast, that said: “It is better for our company that the United Kingdom remains within the EU”.

The memo, seen by the Belfast Telegraph, added there was no doubt that membership of the EU “helped support investment and facilitate growth within the UK aerospace industry”.

It is understood that staff were emailed by Mr Ryan, the head of one of Northern Ireland’s biggest employers, about the company’s position on the referendum yesterday morning.

The message, which will be seen as a huge win for Northern Ireland’s pro-EU camp, is also believed to have been posted on the business’s noticeboards.

Mr Ryan said staying in the bloc was crucial for the Canadian-owned aerospace giant for a number of reasons.

That included the large number of European-based suppliers, and the markets the firm sells to.

Mr Ryan also claimed it was key to stay in order to “engage in Brussels to help shape the EU regulatory environment”.

“Access to integrated European supply chains is critical to our business, and the free movement of goods across Europe contributes significantly to our competitiveness,” he added.

“If the referendum leads to a UK exit, there is huge uncertainty over what trade arrangements the UK would negotiate with the EU, and how long this would take.”

A spokeswoman for Bombardier said: “We can confirm that a memo from Michael Ryan, our vice-president and general manager, was circulated to employees, advising them of the company’s position on whether the UK should remain within the EU.”

“While there are arguments for and against being part of the EU, Bombardier Belfast’s position is that the UK remaining within the EU is better for our aerospace business.

“As one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers, we strongly believe that our competitiveness and future success is better served if the United Kingdom remains part of the EU.”

However, supporters of a Brexit were quick to criticise Mr Ryan.

Jeff Peel, Northern Ireland spokesman for Business for Britain, said the message was “wholly inappropriate”.

“Bombardier workers have the right to exercise their vote without undue pressure,” Mr Peel added.

And TUV Assembly candidate Henry Reilly said: “There is no doubt that the company has overstepped the mark in seeking to influence how their employees will vote in one of  the most important referendums our nation has faced”.

Belfast Telegraph