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Airbus to take majority stake in Bombardier Belfast operation

The Bombardier plant in Belfast


By Anthony Neeson

It’s shaping up to be a battle of the big boys.

Airbus is to take a majority stake in Bombardier’s Belfast-based C-Series jet project.

The C-Series has been dogged in controversy in recent weeks and the move has been greeted by the Canadian firm’s Belfast director as “great news.”

There have been job fears at the Belfast plant after the U.S. government imposed an import duty of 300 percent on the C-Series, claiming Bombardier sold planes below the cost of production which gave them an unfair advantage over U.S. aerospace giant Boeing.

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Compared to Boeing, Canadian company Bombardier in a comparative minnow.

Europe’s Airbus is no minnow.

The wings of Bombardier’s C-Series are manufactured in Belfast at the former Shorts plant, where Bombardier employ over 4,000 people.

One thousand people work on the C-Series.

Airbus will take a 50.1 percent stake in the Bombardier Belfast operation, which both companies believe will help boost sales.

The deal will also give Airbus the right to buy full control of the C-Series in 2023.

Michael Ryan, President, Bombardier Aerostructures and Engineering Services in Belfast, said: “This is great news for our Belfast site, and indeed all of Bombardier Aerostructures and Engineering Services.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to build on our existing supplier relationship with Airbus.

“Today’s announcement serves to strengthen the position of the C Series aircraft program on the international market, and the resulting momentum will be felt positively in our business and throughout the Northern Ireland and UK supply chain.”

Davy Thompson, from the Unite union, said: “My understanding of the deal, and what it means for Belfast, is the supply chain still seems to be what it is today, which would mean Belfast is integral to the overall process.

“That should, we believe, increase and assure people’s job’s down in the C-Series plan, but there are still further challenges.”

The standoff between Boeing and Bombardier stems from a deal which Bombardier reached with Delta Airlines to sell C-Series planes at reduced prices.

The case arising from this deal is expected to be adjudicated early next year.

Boeing and Airbus are the two biggest aircraft makers in the world market. Bombardier, along with Brazil’s Embraer, are second tier manufacturers.

It is being reported that the current dispute could end with an Airbus/Bombardier alliance on one side, a Boeing/Embraer combination on the other.