Airbus CEO expects to sell 'thousands' of C Series aircraft

The head of Airbus told a Montreal business audience on Friday that he believes the company will sell thousands of Bombardier's C Series aircraft.

No plans to buy out Bombardier's stake in C Series venture, Airbus executive says

A Bombardier CS300 aircraft takes off to participate a flying display as an Airbus A380, the world's largest jetliner, waits on the taxiway during the 51st Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris, in this June 2015 photo. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

The head of Airbus told a Montreal business audience on Friday that he believes the company will sell thousands of Bombardier's C Series aircraft.

"I think we will sell many more of these planes," Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said during an appearance with  Alain Bellemare, the president and CEO of Bombardier, at the Montreal Board of Trade. "I think we will sell thousands" of the 110- to 130-seat jets, he said.

Enders also called the C Series a "superb" single-aisle aircraft. "I see no reason why we should not be able to capture 50 per cent of that market," he said.

Bellemare said the deal brings together the strength of Airbus' marketing knowledge, supply chain expertise and after-market support with Bombardier's product.

On Monday, Airbus and Bombardier revealed that Airbus will take a majority holding in the C Series program.

As part of the deal that will see Airbus take a 50.01 per cent stake in the C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership, the C Series headquarters will remain in Montreal area and its primary C Series final manufacturing facility will remain in Quebec.

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The deal also contains a clause that would give Airbus the right to buy the entire C Series business from Bombardier in 2025 at a "fair value" to be determined later. At the same time, Bombardier has the right at that time to sell the entire business to Airbus, if it wants to.

However, Enders said Friday that Airbus has no plans to buy out Bombardier.

"We have no intention to buy out the others because we know they are great partners and if they want to stay on the journey going forward they are very welcome to that," Enders told reporters after the event.

The Airbus-Bombardier deal emerged just weeks after the U.S. government announced preliminary duties of 300 per cent on the C Series aircraft. The duties, which are yet to be confirmed, came after Boeing launched a trade complaint against Bombardier, saying the company was selling its aircraft in the U.S. below cost and receiving government subsidies. 

In addition to Bombardier's C Series production in the Montreal area, a second assembly line to produce the aircraft will be set up at an Airbus plant in Mobile, Ala. Enders has said that an aircraft produced at a U.S. Airbus facility would not be subject to U.S. duties.

However, he said Friday that "[Boeing] will certainly throw everything into our way they can figure."

"The coming months … might be a little bit rough and tough, but we've seen that before," Ender added.

He said he was "absolutely confident" that the shareholders, working together with support of other stakeholders, will prevail against the competition.

Bombardier shares gained two per cent on the TSX on Friday, rising six cents to $2.84.