Thursday 31 October 2019 11:33 am

Spirit Aerosystems buys Bombardier's 3,600-job Northern Ireland factory in $500m deal

The 3,600-job Belfast manufacturing base of Canadian aerospace giant Bombardier has been snapped up by US rival Spirit Aerosystems, as part of a $500m deal.

Bombardier, the province’s biggest employer, had sparked concerns that people could lose their jobs when it put the unit up for sale earlier this year, along with its operations in Morocco, as part of a streamlining effort.

Read more: Bombardier slashes hundreds of Belfast jobs in cost cutting drive

The news was seen as another potential blow to Britain’s beleaguered manufacturing sector, which has already endured major job cut announcements from Honda, Ford and GKN Aerospace, among others.

But unions welcomed this morning’s announcement, which sees Bombardier’s Northern Ireland operation transfer to one of the world’s largest independent producers of aerospace parts.

Spirit Aerosystems, which is based in Kansas, is one of the most important suppliers to Airbus and Boeing. Its chief executive Tom Gentile has already expressed his intention for the firm to do more work for Airbus.

Moving into Northern Ireland is part of that plan, with Bombardier’s Belfast plant making the wings for the Airbus A220. The factory also supplies other parts including engine covers. The US firm is also buying Bombardier’s smaller Moroccan operation.

Trade union Unite’s general secretary Steve Turner said the deal “offers hope for a positive future for Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland and their colleagues in the supply chain”.

Susan Fitzgerald, the union’s regional officer for the area, added: “It’s no surprise that Bombardier has been able to find a commercial bidder for its operations here in Northern Ireland. These workers and the skills base they possess are world class and offer any prospective owner a huge platform for future growth.

“Unite welcomes this announcement and hopes that it will be followed up by investment for growth in the future. Such investment would be good news for the workers and would secure a future at the forefront of the aerospace manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland.”

Bombardier Spirit Aerosystems
The Belfast plant supports about 3,600 jobs (Getty Images)

‘World-class engineering expertise’

The deal has yet to get past regulators, but is not expected to meet any hitches. The combined operations are expected to fully change hands in the first half of next year.

Spirit Aerosystems boss Tom Gentile said: “The Bombardier operations bring world-class engineering expertise to Spirit and add to a strong track record of innovation, especially in advanced composites.” 

“Belfast has developed an impressive position in business jet fuselage production, in addition to the world-acclaimed fully integrated A220 composite wing. This acquisition is in line with our growth strategy of increasing Airbus content, developing low-cost country footprint, and growing our aftermarket business.”

Read moreBombardier to cut 7,500 jobs over the next two years

The US firm expects revenues to be around $1bn across the two businesses for 2019.

Michael Ryan, chief operating officer of Bombardier’s aerostructures division, said: “As we prepare to close the transaction, we will update employees and other stakeholders when appropriate. We have no further details to share at this time.”