US firm Spirit is tipped as Bombardier frontrunner
Invest NI confirms role in aiding talks of possible sale
US company Spirit AeroSystems has emerged as the frontrunner to acquire Bombardier in Northern Ireland, according to reports.
It's understood six parties have been considering buying Bombardier's operations here - three aerospace firms and three investment houses.
A deal for the Northern Ireland plants, which employ a total of 3,500 people, has been described as a good strategic fit for the Wichita-based components maker Spirit.
However, an agreement has not been concluded.
Proposals for the sale of Bombardier in Northern Ireland and Morocco were announced by the Canadian business in May.
It has owned the former Shorts in Belfast since 1989.
British firm GKN Aerospace and Spanish components business Aeronovva have also been linked to a possible purchase.
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Airbus, which already has a majority share in Bombardier's former C Series aircraft, now the A220, had been linked in the early stages to a potential deal.
A spokeswoman for Bombardier said yesterday: "We do not comment on rumour or market speculation."
And she said there was no timescale for a deal to be done. "We are committed to finding the right buyer and will take the necessary time," she said.
Spirit also said it that "it is our policy not to comment on speculation".
The $7bn global company has more than 15,000 employees worldwide.
But it already has some familiarity with Bombardier as it has worked on the A220 since 2009 - when it was still known as the C Series. Spirit designs and builds the pylon for the Airbus A220.
It also makes fuselages, nacelles and wing components for range of customers.
A successful sale of Bombardier would be more welcome news for east Belfast after Harland & Wolff in east Belfast was eventually sold last week to Infrastrata plc in a £6m deal.
And economic development agency Invest NI said it's working to secure a buyer for Bombardier - as well as working towards a "positive outcome" for the sale of Wrightbus after the busbuilder went into administration a fortnight ago.
Around 1,200 people lost their jobs as a result of Wrightbus' insolvency.
A spokeswoman said: "Invest NI is continuing to work with all relevant connected parties and will assist in any way we can to try and find a positive outcome for each."
As well as its headquarters in the Kansas city of Wichita, where it has 12,000 staff, Spirit also has two operations in Oklahoma and another in North Carolina.
And it also has some European operations in Prestwick in Scotland, in Saint-Nazaire in France, and a facility in Subang in Malaysia.
Last month Bombardier in Belfast submitted plans which could see an additional 31,500 sq m extension to its huge 52,500 sq m site at Airport Road West.