UK government in talks to find a buyer for Bombardier Belfast

Airbus is a contender to buy Canadian aerospace group’s Northern Ireland operation

Analysts believe Bombardier Belfast would be a good fit for Airbus, as it  manufactures the composite wing for the Airbus A220 aircraft, previously known as the C series. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Analysts believe Bombardier Belfast would be a good fit for Airbus, as it manufactures the composite wing for the Airbus A220 aircraft, previously known as the C series. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

The UK’s Department for Business has said it is in “regular conversation with a wide range of companies” in relation to the sale of Bombardier’s Northern Ireland facilities following confirmation from Airbus that it is looking at the asset.

Bombardier put its Northern Ireland business up for sale earlier this month. It has a core staff of 3,600.

The Canadian aerospace group has said “details regarding the ongoing sales process are confidential” and has not disclosed interest levels.

The chief executive of Airbus, Guillaume Faury, told reporters in London on Thursday that the aircraft manufacturer is closely following the sale process.

But Mr Faury also said that it was too early to speculate on whether the aircraft manufacturer would make a bid for Bombardier’s operations in the North.

Good fit

Analysts believe Bombardier Belfast would be a good fit for Airbus. The Northern Ireland operation is a major supplier to Airbus – it manufactures the composite wing for the Airbus A220 aircraft, previously known as the C series.

Bombardier’s Belfast operation, Short Brothers plc, currently holds the intellectual property rights to the unique Resin Transfer Infusion (RTI) process that was developed by Belfast engineers and is also considered by industry analysts to be a key issue in the sale of Bombardier’s Northern Ireland operations.

But Bombardier has not disclosed whether the IP rights will be sold as part of its plans to divest its Northern Ireland business.

Andrew Stephenson, parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Department for Business, has previously said that Bombardier is “a jewel in the crown of not only Northern Irish manufacturing, but the whole UK aerospace sector”, and has pledged that the UK Government will “work together to do everything we can to ensure the future of this site and its workforce.”

Potential bidders

Other potential bidders for the business are thought to include a Chinese aviation group that already has a presence in the North.

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), which acquired Portadown-headquartered Thompson Aero Seating three years ago and also has a long-standing “strategic business relationship” with Bombardier dating back to 2007, is viewed as a “credible contender” for Bombardier by aerospace sector sources.

Bombardier’s chief executive, Alain Bellemare, has stressed that the Canadian group is not planning a ‘fire sale’
 

Another Chinese state-owned company, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac), is also seen as a possible bidder.

Bombardier’s chief executive, Alain Bellemare, has stressed that the Canadian group is not planning a “fire sale” for Bombardier Belfast, and is determined to get what he has described as the “full value” for its Northern operations.