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Why I’m Avoiding Bombardier, Inc.

Originally starting as a company that manufactured snowmobiles, Bombardier, Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) is now in the business of manufacturing airplanes and rail cars. Traditionally, the airline industry has been one the worst businesses to invest in.

Bombardier is not in the airline business, but in the manufacturing business. In comparison to other manufacturing operations, the company is at a disadvantage. Companies like Boeing or Embraer manufacture large airplanes where there is little competition. Basically, two competitors control the large-airplane manufacturing sector.

The manufacturing of smaller airplanes is another story. No company holds an edge since there are too many competitors with the ability to deliver small airplanes to willing buyers.

In recent news, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway disclosed stakes in airlines American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co, United Continental Holdings Inc., essentially betting the airlines would behave and act rationally since there are now fewer large competitors. Although his track record stands above all others, he has been wrong before.

As an investor, having fewer customers is nothing short of a nightmare. For the manufacturers of smaller airplanes, there are fewer customers–each with more relative power than before. In the case of Bombardier, it would have been the first casualty had the Quebec government not stepped in to save what they consider a Quebec treasure.

Currently trading at a price of $2 per share, this may have been the final bounce before the conclusion of what was a historic part of Canadian culture. With the future completely unknown and a recent brush with bankruptcy, I will be putting my hard-earned money elsewhere.

The company’s balance sheet is nothing to look at. With long-term debt now totaling almost $9 billion, an increase in interest rates may wipe out the company if the competition doesn’t beforehand. Total assets and total liabilities total $23.8 billion and $29.6 billion, respectively, at the end of the third quarter. Looking back just one year, total assets were $23.8 billion (unchanged), while total liabilities were $27.5 billion. Looking a little further into these numbers, we also find close to $2 billion in goodwill–an asset which can’t be sold off.

Going beyond airline manufacturing, the company has also had several of its rail contracts cancelled.

It’s hard to find good news regarding the company’s future. At $2 per share, Canadians have seen this before. There was a time when fallen giant Nortel traded for pocket change, and, although it was entertaining to watch, it was not a worthwhile investment.

After everything is done to save a piece of history, the company will eventually go on to a better place. How long it will take is a question we have to ask.

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Fool contributor Ryan Goldsman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway (B shares).

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