Europe’s Airbus has announced it will acquire a majority stake in Bombardier’s C-Series passenger jet business.
The agreement aims to allow Bombardier to make savings on production of the aircraft and to take advantage of Airbus’s international reach to boost sales.
Canadian firm Bombardier employs 4,000 people in Belfast where the wings for the C-Series are made.
There have been fears for those jobs as the company is facing a 220% tariff on a new model of passenger jet and a second preliminary levy of 80% on the exports of its planes to the US.
The dispute centres around claims from US firm Boeing that Bombardier received unfair state subsidies from the UK and Canada, allowing it to sell airliners at below-cost prices in the US.
The new deal, if approved by regulators, would see Airbus get a 50.01% interest in Bombardier’s C-Series Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP).
Bombardier and Investissement Québec would own about 31% and 19% respectively.
Airbus would provide procurement, sales and marketing, and customer support to the CSALP, the entity that makes and sells the jet.
Image: Bombardier workers with a C-Series aeroplane wing in Belfast
Airbus chief executive officer Tom Enders said: “Not only will this partnership secure the C Series and its industrial operations in Canada, the UK and China, but we also bring new jobs to the US.
“I have no doubt that our partnership with Bombardier will boost sales and the value of this programme tremendously.”
Alain Bellemare, president and chief executive officer of Bombardier, said: “This partnership should more than double the value of the C-Series programme and ensures our remarkable game-changing aircraft realises its full potential.”
The C-Series headquarters will remain in Montreal but a second assembly line will be set up at Airbus’s facility in Alabama.
Mr Enders said that an aircraft made in a US Airbus facility would not be subject to duties under the US case, AP reported.
A Boeing spokesman said: “This looks like a questionable deal between two heavily state-subsidised competitors to skirt the recent findings of the US government.”
:: How the battle for our skies landed in Belfast
It was not clear how the partnership between Bombardier and Airbus might affect the tariff row but Northern Ireland political leaders welcomed the announcement.
DUP leader Arlene Foster described it as “incredibly significant news for Bombardier, Belfast and Northern Ireland”.
She added: “Airbus clearly recognise the value of the C Series. I welcome their interest and investment.
“Having personally supported the aircraft through its development, I’m thrilled there is a bright future ahead following what has been a dark time for staff and management.
“I hope this will safeguard the C Series programme.”
Image: Bombardier is a major employer in Belfast
East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson added: “Over the last four months, our focus has been the Belfast workforce and securing a successful resolution to this ongoing dispute.
“Whilst there is some way to travel, we will offer our full support in securing the necessary regulatory approvals. The commitment to the Belfast facility is a testament to the ingenuity of the workforce.
“They should be proud that their valuable capability will continue to play a crucial role in C Series.”