Bombardier, Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) can’t seem to get ahead of the curve, at least not yet.
The embattled plane and train manufacturer has spent the past few years trying to launch the new CSeries jet that is aimed at the 100-150 passenger market, which is dominated by both Airbus Group SE and Boeing Co.
The project is years late and billions over budget, but the plane is finally available for airlines around the world to order, so Bombardier can make a return on the significant investment. The only problem is, there aren’t any huge orders … yet.
What happened to all of the CSeries orders?
As cruel as events have been for Bombardier, the company’s single largest client for the CSeries program, Republic Airways, filed for bankruptcy this past week. The filing will likely spell the end of the CSeries order as Republic will move to consolidate fleet numbers while operating under Chapter 11.
There’s also the question of Air Canada (TSX:AC)(TSX:AC.B). The largest airline in Canada, and a potential North American anchor client for the CSeries, stepped up to the plate last month, announcing the a letter of intent to order 45 CSeries jets with options for another 30. That order is worth about US$3.8 billion and, including the options, could be pushed to US$6 billion or more.
The only problem with the Air Canada order is that it’s not an order, at least not yet. The letter of intent will still need to be translated into a firm order.
The Quebec deal and a federal deal looming?
Back in October of last year Bombardier approached the government for assistance. Quebec responded in the form of a US$1 billion bailout of the CSeries. As part of the deal, the provincial government is set to receive a 49.5% stake in a new limited partnership that assumes control of all the assets, liabilities, and obligations relating to the CSeries project.
Some Quebec politicians have since been very vocal about the deal, claiming that taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick. Besides a lack of discussion about the bailout, the primary complaint that is being raised is the lack of any job assurances made by Bombardier.
While that deal is unlikely to be renegotiated, a potential new deal with the Federal Government is said to be in the works. That proposed deal would essentially add to the Quebec deal, giving Quebec, the Federal Government, and Bombardier each a third share of the new CSeries partnership.
This has the benefit of moving the CSeries off the books, which would give a significant boost to Bombardier come reporting time. The impact to both cash flow and EPS could be positive for Bombardier and span the next few years.
Should the Federal Government invest?
This is a tough decision for the government. There are those that argue that Alberta’s oil industry is the one in need of a bailout as the job losses there have been considerably more over a shorter time with a wider effect.
On the other hand, the bailout as proposed would let Bombardier continue operations and keep high-paying skilled jobs in Quebec. It would also see the CSeries finally take off and begin manufacturing, which could ultimately result in more orders and significant revenue for the company.
In my opinion, Bombardier is a risky investment, but it’s one that could pay off significantly. The announcement of Air Canada’s letter of intent resulted in a stock surge of 20%. If the CSeries were to be spun off into a partnership with the provincial and federal governments, we could see a similar surge or an even bigger one.