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Bombardier sells Belfast plant to Spirit Aerosystems for £850m

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Bombardier's Belfast operation has been sold to a US aerospace firm. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA/AP

Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier (BDRBF) has sold its Belfast operation to US aerospace company Spirit Aerosystems for $1.1bn (£850m), in a move that will save up to 3,600 jobs in Northern Ireland.

Bombardier announced in May that, as part of a streamlining plan, it was looking for a buyer for the its four sites in Northern Ireland, as well as its smaller Morocco-based business.

The company’s plant in Belfast was opened in 2013, and primarily produces wings for Airbus A220 aircraft. Bombardier spent about £520m ($670m) on the plant, a sum that made it Northern Ireland’s largest-ever inward investment.

Spirit Aerosystems is based in Kansas, and will pay Bombardier $500m in cash for the plant. It will also take on about $600m in pension liabilities and government grant repayments.

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In total, around 4,000 employees will move from Bombardier to Spirit, including those from the Morocco business and some US facilities.

Spirit, which was spun out of Boeing in 2005, said that it hoped to trim around $60m in costs with the move. It is now one of the largest manufacturers of aircraft parts.

“We are confident that Spirit’s acquisition of these aerostructures assets is the best outcome for customers, employees and shareholders, and we are committed to ensuring a smooth and orderly transition,” Bombardier said in a statement on Thursday.

Spirit CEO Tom Gentile said that the acquisition conformed with its growth strategy. The company has been hoping to increase its business with Airbus, he said.

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“Belfast has developed an impressive position in business jet fuselage production, in addition to the world-acclaimed fully integrated A220 composite wing.”

Bombardier has had a presence in Northern Ireland since 1989, when it purchased Short Brothers.

The first company in the world to make production aircraft, Short Brothers moved its headquarters from Kent to Belfast in 1948.

Bombardier, which has factories in 28 countries, has been under pressure from shareholders in recent years, after attempts to compete with market-leading aircraft from Boeing and Airbus foundered.