Bombardier sells Northern Ireland operations in $1.1bn deal

Canada’s Bombardier has agreed to sell its Belfast-based aerospace business to US-based Spirit AeroSystems as part of a $ 1.1bn (£840m) deal.

The business is Northern Ireland’s biggest manufacturer, employing 3,600 people, and was put up for sale by Bombardier in May.

Its history dates back to the 1930s when Shorts established its first factory in Belfast.

The deal will see Kansas-based Spirit pay $ 500m (£390m) in cash, and take on liabilities worth $ 590m (£460m), to acquire aerostructure operations in Northern Ireland, Morocco and Texas.

Spirit, whose global operations include a site in Prestwick, Scotland, makes parts for aeroplane makers Boeing and Airbus.

Susan Fitzgerald of the Unite union
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Bombardier’s operations in Northern Ireland are in Belfast, Newtownards and Dunmurry.

The business has been described by the government as a vital asset in the UK aerospace sector and one whose future it would work to try to help secure.

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Bombardier is disposing of the operations as it seeks to focus instead on business aircraft and trains.

Michael Ryan, chief operations officer for aerostructures at Bombardier Aviation, said: “We are delighted that Spirit… has recognised our unique offering and growth potential.

“We look forward to an exciting future ahead.”

Steve Turner, assistant general secretary at trade union Unite, said: “It is a sale that offers hope for a positive future for Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland and their colleagues in the supply chain.”

The announcement comes after Bombardier said in November it was cutting 490 jobs in Belfast as part of a global drive to slash costs.

In 2017, the Northern Ireland operation came under threat from US proposals to slap 292% tariffs on Bombardier C-Series passenger planes, whose wings are made in Northern Ireland – but the plans were later blocked by the US International Trade Commission.

Bombardier bought the Shorts business from the UK government in 1989 and has since invested more than £2.7bn.

Today it specialises in parts including wings, engine systems and fuselages.

Its parts are used both for Bombardier aircraft and for customers including Airbus, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce.

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