Airbus Could Take Remaining A220 Stake From Bombardier

The Airbus A220 is more complex than most commercial aircraft programs in terms of ownership. This is due to its interesting history and its roots at Bombardier – where the Canadian manufacturer has a minority stake in the A220. However, things might get a little simpler as industry sources told CNBC on Friday that Airbus is poised to acquire Bombardier’s remaining stake in the program.

Airbus A220-300 and A321
Airbus rescued the A220 program when it was under attack from United States tariffs.  Photo: Airbus

According to CNBC, industry sources see Airbus taking the remaining stake in the A220 program currently owned by Bombardier. In fact, these sources report a deal is expected next week, in advance of the February 13 release of their earnings reports.

Bombardier struggling

Canadian manufacturer Bombardier hasn’t been doing too well lately. Involved in aerospace as well as light-rail transportation, it has been undergoing a significant restructuring of its assets. In fact, Bombardier sold off its CRJ – its regional jet program – to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries last year. There is even talk that it might also exit the private aircraft world by selling its business jet division, which includes the Learjet, Challenger, and Global models.

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Bombardier had invested a lot in the A220, which was known initially as the CSeries. The company saw initial success with a huge order from Delta. Unfortunately, it attracted the attention of Boeing – which petitioned the U.S. Government to take action, accusing Bombardier of illegal ‘dumping’, selling the aircraft below cost. Facing the possibility of 292% tariffs on its major sale to Delta, the entire program was in jeopardy.

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A Delta Air Lines Airbus A220
Airbus will make the Airbus A220 in Mobile, Alabama for its US clients. Photo: Delta News Hub via Flickr

It was in 2018 that Montreal-based Bombardier ceded control of the program to Airbus. With a majority 50.6% stake for Airbus, Bombardier retained a minority stake in the program in cooperation with the Canadian province of Quebec.

More funds needed for A220 production

Since Airbus has taken over the program, the A220 has seen a fair deal of success. In fact, it has logged 658 orders for the airframe as of 31 January. However, despite this success, more cash is needed in order to ramp up production – something that Bombardier may not be able to afford. In fact, the company faces higher-than-expected costs in its rail division. It also faces more than US$9 billion of debt.

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Air canada A220-300
The A220 has deep Canadian roots. Photo: Airbus

Despite Bombardier’s significant presence in Quebec, the province’s Premier, Francois Legault is ruling out further investment in the joint venture. Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said last Monday “We put $1 billion in it and that’s enough.”

When we asked Airbus for comment with regard to the Quebec government’s lack of interest in injecting more funds, this is what they had to say:

“Airbus is fully committed to the success of the A220, to Quebec and Canadian aerospace and will continue to fund the programme on its way to breakeven…The partnership (Airbus Canada Limited Partnership) is working hard to make a huge success of the A220 (-100 & -300), to sell the aircraft, ramp-up production and reduce costs to make the A220 a commercial and economic success.”

Buying out Bombardier’s share of the program might not be something Airbus wants to do at this time. However, with a lack of interest from other stakeholders, there aren’t many options.

Tallinn Malaga airBaltic
airBaltic along with SWISS for the first customers for this aircraft. Photo: airBaltic

With its current 50.6% stake in the program, Airbus delivered 48 A220 jets in 2019. Furthermore, it is ramping up production toward a maximum monthly capacity of 10 jets at Bombardier’s Mirabel, Quebec facility. By around 2025, it will produce four planes per month at a second line in Alabama.

Conclusion

This would be a sad move for many Canadians, who had high hopes for Bombardier’s aerospace program and the A220. On that same note, many believe the company as a whole to be poorly managed and in dire need of an overhaul. Giving up the remaining share of the A220 to Airbus may assist in Bombardier getting back on track with its finances.

A320 and C Series
Airbus took a 50.6% stake in the CSeries program in 2018 and renamed it the A220. Photo: AIrbus

If the rumors are true, do you agree with Bombardier’s decision to let go of the program? Or is it losing out on a golden opportunity? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

We reached out to both Airbus and Bombardier in search for an official statement. However, at the time of publishing this article, no responses have been received. We will update this article if anything new comes in.

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John

Inevitable, but sad, Bombardier are a mess and with the news they are also likely to sell the Challenger/Global Business Jet division to Textron it really is the the endgame for Canada and Quebec’s aircraft industry ambitions. The Airbus C Series will likely have a continuing future in Quebec as the programme is a success but no-one is making any money yet, in fact the joint venture losses which Bombardier are responsible for ($350m) is part of the continuing problem and from what I read the likely aquisition cost for the Bombardier shares. It’s a great aircraft and I have… Read more »

Armand2REP

The reason Bombardier is dumping their shares is because the production costs have not come down. This is in part because of the costs at the Montreal production site. If Bombardier divests its shares to Airbus there will be job cuts coming to streamline operations. The only reason it hasn’t been done is because the Quebec investment fund wouldn’t allow it to preserve jobs. Now they will have no say.

Michael Sheargold

I think this is on the money. Airbus is looking forward with A220 and the other partners are looking back. They would be smart to have a future revenue linked to the success of the program over the next 15 years. Airbus, even though the program needs a cash injection, is in a prime spot with this awesome aircraft!

Gerry S

Article states that many Canadians believe that Bombadier is mismanaged. I never would have thought so, but if Canadians themselves say so, then the panic which facilitated the sell-off to Airbus is understandable. Weak knees is what I thought. Bombadier never put up a fight against Boeing and US regulators. They simply caved. One day I am reading that Boeing sued. Next day tarrifs are applied. And the next, shockingly, Bombadier makes Airbus an offer it could not refuse: Take our aircraft for next to nothing. Cowardly! …Maybe the Canadians are right. Piss poor management……..Oh! What might have been.

Adam

As a Canadian, believe me when I say Bombardier has been mismanaged for as long as I can remember. It’s a damn shame, but even with this exceptional aircraft, Bombardier has found a way to run themselves into the ground (hopefully not literally). This time it seems to also be a case of difficult circumstances, but still.

TonytTDK

Bombardier may be badly managed……… or they may just be too small to weather the financial storm of bringing a small airliner to market. The process of clean-sheet to flying in service can be a tortuous & expensive one. You only need to look at the B787, 777X & MAX or the A380 to see how difficult the task really can be.! It takes $ Billions, to design from scratch, develop the aircraft & create a production-line. I remember chatting to a guy from Shorts in Belfast about 5 years ago, who told me he made components for the aircraft.… Read more »

TonytTDK

I still think that it’s plausible & possible that Airbus will choose to make a ‘rights issue’ to raise the development funds it needs to continue the development of the A220.? Such an action would mean that Airbus would itself raise all the develoment money it needed, but would accordingly reduce the shareholding of both Bombardier AND theat of Quebec province, so that the final value of their shares will be less.! By doing things that way, Airbus would not need to pay-out a substantial amount of cash right now to Bombardier & Quebec province, but would allow their partnership… Read more »

David C.

Bombardier is in the middle of a massive, long term cash crunch. I would expect no less from Airbus than the purchase of the remaining shares from Bombardier at fire sale prices. They get a next generation aircraft for pennies on the dollar development cost wise and have a new product line to exclusively sell. Airbus is its own company and does not do anything for benevolent purposes. They are just taking advantage of the situation to strike a good deal. And bet that within 6 months of Airbus taking over, the A220-500 is announced.

Raj

This proves Mismanagement of BOMBARDIER leadership team, they didn’t manage the organization in a right way hence their share price is shaking at Toronto stock market.

Gerry S

Just irks me that they produced such a fine airplane and then just gave it away.

David C.

Flieger Faust Nailed it on the 9th. He called it first and so did you with this article, and it was bang on. Wowser.