Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Bombardier said to consider offloading jet and turboprop units

US' imposition of 300 per cent tariffs against the C Series potentially crippling for Canadian plane maker

Bombardier’s C-series aircraft is pictured at an airport during its static demo event in New Delhi, India October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Bombardier’s C-series aircraft is pictured at an airport during its static demo event in New Delhi, India October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Bombardier is seeking investors for its aerospace businesses and considering a sale of some operations, people familiar with the matter said, as a turnaround plan at the Canadian plane maker faces pressure from potentially crippling US tariffs on its marquee jetliner.

The Montreal-based manufacturer is studying the disposal of assets including its Q400 turboprop and CRJ regional-jet unit, said the people, who asked not to be identified. Airbus is among the suitors, they said, with one person saying Bombardier is also open to partnerships with other aerospace companies.

Asset sales or investment deals in aerospace would raise money for Bombardier as it contends with newly imposed import duties of 300 per cent on its C Series jetliner in the US, the world’s biggest aviation market. Bombardier also missed out on a merger of its rail-equipment business with Siemens’ operation after months of talks. Deals on the Q400 or CRJ may add life to languishing products, an analyst said.

“Bombardier has neglected these products for so long,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace consultant at Teal Group who added that the Q400 may have an easier time finding a buyer than the CRJ line. “These should be worth more and should be more desirable.”

The Q400 competes with planes made by ATR, which is owned by Airbus and Leonardo. Bombardier’s regional jets go head to head with aircraft built by Brazil’s Embraer.

Bombardier and Airbus, whose earlier talks on a potential business collaboration fizzled in 2015, declined to comment. No final decisions have been made and Bombardier deliberations with potential partners may not lead to any transactions, the people said.

The Bombardier chief executive Alain Bellemare is trying to stop a cash drain after the C Series came to market more than two years behind schedule and about US$2bn over budget. The delays and cost overruns prompted Bombardier to accept a $1bn investment from Quebec in the C Series programme, plus another $300 million from Canada. The company’s Global 7000 business jet has also been delayed.

The US commerce department recently imposed 300 per cent tariffs against the C Series, saying Bombardier sold the narrow-body plane at less than its fair-market value after receiving government subsidies in Canada. The agency’s decision followed a complaint by Boeing after Bombardier sold at least 75 of its planes to Delta Air Lines, a deal valued at more than $5bn based on list prices.

Bombardier’s shares closed at C$2.32 on October 13 and have risen 6.9 per cent this year. The company got about 57 per cent of its revenue from aircraft and aerospace parts last year.

In 2015, Bombardier sold a stake in its rail business to Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, Canada’s second-largest pension fund manager, for $1.5bn. Last month, Siemens chose France’s Alstom as its merger partner in rail equipment.

Mr Bellemare has long talked about the need for Bombardier to improve margins of the Q400, which has lost market share in recent years to lighter, cheaper turboprops made by ATR. Bombardier is looking to move production of wings and cockpits for the Q400 outside Canada to reduce costs, vice president Todd Young said last month at a press briefing in Mirabel, Quebec.

Colin Bole, a senior vice president of sales at Bombardier’s commercial aircraft unit, said at the same press briefing that the company has “a tremendous number of Q400 campaigns in the pipeline globally and we certainly intend to crystallize those in the next few months”.

“I think you will see a dramatic change in the backlog,” Mr Bole said.

Updated: October 16, 2017 10:02 AM