Quebec Has No Intention To Pour More Cash Into The Airbus A220

Back in 2016, the Canadian province of Quebec invested US$1 billion in Bombardier’s C Series program. Many saw this as a way to protect Quebec jobs and business as the program struggled with progress. Much has happened since then, including a majority acquisition of the program by Airbus. The program now needs more funds, but Quebec’s current premier is ruling out pouring more cash into the joint venture.

Airbus A220 in AC LIvery
Air Canada was an early customer of the A220 when it was still the Bombardier CSeries. Photo: Airbus

The need for more cash

In Bombardier’s fourth-quarter earnings report it outlined the need for additional cash investments that will be used for activities such as aircraft production:

“While the A220 program continues to win in the marketplace and demonstrate its value to airlines, the latest indications of the financial plan from [Airbus Canada Limited Partnership] calls for additional cash investments to support production ramp-up, pushes out the break-even timeline, and generates a lower return over the life of the program.”

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According to AIN, Bombardier has invested a total of $6 billion in the former CSeries program since 2008. In October 2017, Bombardier agreed to hand over 51% of the program to Airbus while keeping a 31% stake in the newly formed “C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP)”. The Provincial government of Quebec took the remaining 19%. CTV News has slightly different numbers, with 50.06% owned by Airbus, 33.58% for Bombardier and 16.36% for the Quebec government.

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When we contacted Airbus, 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.

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“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.

“We cannot comment on our partners’ (Bombardier and Investissement Quebec) financial matters.”

How Quebec is involved

Quebec struck a deal with Canadian aerospace company, Bombardier, to invest US$1 billion in the plane maker’s CSeries program. For the Canadian province of Quebec, the decision was a straightforward move to protect its homegrown business and local jobs, which represented 2% of the province’s GDP, according to the Globe and Mail.

According to BBD True North, Bombardier employed as many as 16,000 people in Quebec in 2018. However, 2,500 Quebec workers were laid off later in the year, putting the number closer to 13,500. However, the number is still significant enough to be an important political issue.

Delta Air Lines
Bombardier’s CSeries program was put into jeopardy when the U.S. Government accused it of unfair trade practices, selling the aircraft to Delta below cost. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Despite Bombardier’s significant presence in Quebec, Premier Francois Legault is ruling out handing over more money to the joint venture, saying the following to reporters:

“They should have invested in Bombardier, in the whole company. Now we find ourselves in a situation where Airbus has the majority of shares, so it’s very difficult to make sure that cost sharing in that unit is done correctly.”

According to CTV News, in 10 days Quebec will specify its intentions regarding its participation in the Airbus Canada Limited Partnership (SCAC). On Tuesday, Quebec provincial Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said he was working closely with Bombardier and Airbus to find solutions.

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Some airlines have indicated an interest in a stretched version of the A220. Photo: Airbus.

Conclusion

Under the agreement struck with Bombardier, Airbus will be able to buy Quebec’s share of the A220 program at the end of June 2023. It will then be able to purchase Bombardier’s stake in the limited partnership in 2026. Of course, if all three parties agree to changes in the contract, it would seem plausible that the timeline could change, as well as the balance in ownership.

The A220 has become a favorite amongst travelers and seems to have gained some momentum last year as it secures notable orders from airlines like Air France. Some airlines have even indicated an interest in a stretched version of the aircraft. Unfortunately, the program needs more money in the short-term to cover production costs.

Do you think Quebec should further its investment? Or try to exit the program completely? Let us know in the comments.

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Gerry S

Quebec should invest. Canada stands to lose all stakes in A220 to Airbus if it is not agressive. A220 STILL belongs to Bombadier (in my eyes) and Canada needs to be more assertive and demand more. By investing more where it is necessary would highlight their interest and intention to hold on to the product THEY produced. It would also illustrate a commitment which Airbus has to recognize. Pay up front now, or lose it all in the future.

TonytTDK

I imagine that Airbus will organise a ‘rights issue’ or something similar, which will effectively diminish the proportion of A220 partnership shares, which either Quebec province or Bombardier hold, should they fail to provide the ‘required’ levels of capital investment for the further development of the aircraft.?
Such an action would be at the discretion of Airbus, as the controlling partner, but also would reflect in the eventual final-value of both Quebec & Bombardiers shares. Whoever bought the ‘rights’ shares would increase their proportion of shares held, so if neither of the other 2 partners put further cash into the A220, Airbus would increase their 51% incrementally. The shares percentage will depend upon whatever the current agreed value of the Partnership currently is & how much the ‘rights-issue’ investment ends-up being, but would then devalue any non-contributiong shares by a similar proportion.?

Jonathan

Boeing should buy out Quebec’s interest in the partnership.

Gerry S

Airbus should act honourable and give up some of their shares of A220. Make it fairer.a

WordsMatter

The A220 programme has dramatically increased its share in the marketplace since the new partnership with Airbus. So that is all going according to plan I imagine, but increased sales obviously require a ramp-up in production which is what this cash investment is for according to the article. The Quebec government has a 19% partnership in the business of manufacturing aircraft. Perhaps the Quebec government doesn’t want to be, and probably shouldn’t be, in the business of manufacturing aircraft.

WordsMatter

“They should have invested in Bombardier, in the whole company. Now we find ourselves in a situation where Airbus has the majority of shares, so it’s very difficult to make sure that cost sharing in that unit is done correctly.”

Who is “They”? If the premier means Airbus, then don’t be hesitant to say Airbus. Be direct.

” … should have invested in Bombardier, in the whole company.” What is the premier actually saying here? Is this an accusation that some entity is not not fullfilling its obligations according to the formal agreement? If anything, it comes accross at the moment that Quebec is pulling back from its obligations in the partnership.

” … so it’s very difficult to make sure that cost sharing in that unit is done correctly.” Why should it be very difficult? That is what accountants do and I would hope that all stakeholders, including Quebec, is ensuring that due accounting dilligence is being done!

Jack Abbott

Bombardier wasted its shot when it decided to focus on a market niche with the CSeries aircraft. Too much development, certification time and money had been spent on the shortened CS100 (A220-100) model. At the time in Québec, there was no shortage of engineering brains and aerospace know-how in designing and building a planet-dominating mainline aircraft that would essentially wipe out two empires: the A320 and 737. It ended up scaring Boeing and Airbus into re-engining its aircraft into MAX and neo variants. If Bombardier had initially invested in both the standard-length CS300 and stretched CS500, it may have had the kind of orders and leverage to finance its production lines.

Gerry S

Yeah! And Airbus was furious because they had to rush their NEOs. So maybe they won't do the honorable thing……sigh!

John

Some of the comments pleading the Bombardier/Quebec Province equity case in perversely naive. The C Project and Bombardier were on their knees and with the Boeing just about to politically destroy them. Airbus saved the C and Boeing scored an own goal. Hubris has its own reward!

Airbus are not saints and no doubt driven by their own commercial and strategic interests but can’t be faulted so far – saved the project and investing in US production and increased scale and maintainance of employment in Quebec and market confidence. In the circumstances it’s the best possible outcome.

Get real, Quebec Province did their critical bit, now time to move on.