Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. has become a pioneer in the acquisition of Bombardier Inc’s aerostructure facilities in Belfast and Morocco, two sources close to the case said.
An agreement for the factories would be strategic for the American manufacturer of aerospace components Spirit, which diversifies its customers. But no agreement has been reached for the factories and negotiations could be interrupted, said one of the sources, who discussed the private negotiations anonymously.
Bombardier announced in May its intention to divest its two aerostructures businesses, including a wing manufacturing plant in Belfast, while the Montreal-based company is outsourcing its commercial aviation business to more profitable jet operations of business and railway cars.
Spirit, which analysts speculated as a potential purchaser of the plants, has publicly stated that its acquisition criteria include diversification from Boeing. Other potential candidates nominated by analysts and reported by the media include Airbus SE in Europe, Aernnova in Spain and GKN Aerospace.
Airbus was not bidding for Bombardier’s facilities. An Airbus spokesman declined to comment on the rumors, but said Bombardier’s aerostructure and engineering services were a key supplier to the company. “We are monitoring the situation of course to make sure that supplies and competitiveness are maintained,” said the source.
Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury said in September that the planner wanted to cut A220 costs for its suppliers by 20% over three years. The Belfast plant, which produces wings for the Airbus A220, is considered politically sensitive as the largest manufacturer of advanced technology in Northern Ireland and employs around 3,500 people. Bombardier also sells a wing component factory in Morocco.
Spirit is Boeing’s largest supplier, but plans to expand its business with Airbus with the announced 2018 acquisition of Asco Industries for $ 650 million. In May, Spirit, which manufactures the fuselage, engine structural components and wing components of the Boeing 737 MAX, suspended its outlook for the year following its decision to ground this model following two deadly collisions.
But Spirit continued to produce parts for the MAX at a rate of 52 units per month, even though Boeing had reduced production to 42 per month. The company explained that it had reduced overtime, frozen recruitment costs and other costs to offset the impact of MAX’s grounding.