Is Bombardier Inc. Ready for Flight or Is it Going Off the Rails?
Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) could very well be Canada’s most talked about stock in 2015.
In less than five months the company has changed its CEO, issued a trainload of debt and equity, cancelled its dividend, shut down its Learjet program, postponed its annual investor day, and announced the layoff of more than 1,750 employees—1,000 of those in Quebec.
That’s a lot of change in a very short time, and it sends a strong message that things really aren’t going so well for the country’s beloved plane and train manufacturer.
Even the Quebec government, nervous that Bombardier was at risk of going bust, indicated earlier this year that it would do its best to bail out the company should the need arise. The province reaffirmed its support in the last few days.
Meanwhile, long-term shareholders have taken it on the chin, and the remaining faithful wake up every day wondering what else could go wrong.
Much of the malaise is connected to the company’s CSeries jet program, which is struggling to get out of the hangar and into the hands of customers.
The program is already more than two years late and $2 billion over budget. With a mountain of debt sitting on its balance sheet, Bombardier raised $2.4 billion in capital in February to avoid a possible cash crunch. More than $1 billion was an equity issue sold at $2.21 per share, the lowest point in the stock’s recent history.
New CEO Alain Bellemare is already shaking things up, and concerns that he might not be given the required freedom to make big changes might have been premature. Bellemare has replaced senior executives, hired a strategic advisor, and just announced the elimination of 480 jobs in Toronto and nearly 1,000 in Montreal.
Last month, Bombardier came under fire in Quebec when rumours hit the street that the company was considering a sale or spin-off of its rail business.
On April 10 Quebec’s economy minister Jacques Daoust tried to avoid chaos in la belle province, and made the following statement: “I received confirmation this morning (from Pierre Beaudoin) that the transportation division is not for sale.”
His statement flies in the face of a Reuters article released April 29 that cited two sources saying China’s top two train makers, China CNR Corp. Ltd. and state-owned CSR Corp Ltd., were in negotiations to buy a controlling stake in Bombardier.
Who do you believe?
It makes perfect sense that the Bombardier and Beaudoin families might want to cash out, but I doubt a transfer of control of Bombardier to the Chinese state-owned train maker would be allowed to transpire, especially in an election year.
The two Chinese firms are in the process of joining up to create the world’s largest railway company. The $26 billion merger forms a global powerhouse that is already making a strong push into international markets.
Given the size of the new Chinese company, Bombardier may not have the financial firepower needed to compete, so a deal might make sense.
In fact, Bombardier was already outbid by CNR-MA, the China-owned rail car maker, on a US$567 million deal to supply 284 subway cars to the city of Boston.
The loss is significant because it is the first big deal won by the Chinese in the U.S. and could signal more wins to come, especially if the Chinese are willing to undercut all competitors to get a foothold in the North American market.
Should you buy Bombardier?
If betting on this kind of situation is your cup of maple syrup, there is certainly a chance that Bombardier will pull itself out of the ashes and rise like the phoenix, but that’s a brave call to make at the moment. I suggest you look elsewhere for a place to invest your money.
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Fool contributor Andrew Walker has no position in any stocks mentioned.
Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) could very well be Canada?s most talked about stock in 2015.
In less than five months the company has changed its CEO, issued a trainload of debt and equity, cancelled its dividend, shut down its Learjet program, postponed its annual investor day, and announced the layoff of more than 1,750 employees?1,000 of those in Quebec.
That?s a lot of change in a very short time, and it sends a strong message that things really aren?t going so well for the country?s beloved plane and train manufacturer.
Even the Quebec government, nervous that Bombardier was at risk of going bust,…