Northern Ireland

Nervous times for Bombardier Northern Ireland workforce

CSeries Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sales of the CSeries airliners have been stuck at 243 for more than a year now.

These are nervous times for the 5,500-strong Bombardier workforce in Northern Ireland.

Sales of its delayed, over-budget CSeries airliners have been stuck at 243 for more than a year now.

Furthermore, not a single order has been added since its big launch at the Paris Air Show in June, despite being well-received.

The wings are made at a £520m factory in east Belfast and the venture underpins hundreds of jobs.

But the reason for the wider anxiety is that cash-haemorrhaging project is destabilising the wider business.

The manufacturer of planes and trains employs 74,000 people worldwide.

Some analysts predict the it might run out of money by mid-2016.

So what's going wrong?

Image caption Bombardier has a 5,500 workforce in Northern Ireland

With the first CSeries not going into service with an airline until next year, delays have drained the confidence of buyers.

The main sales pitch - fuel efficiency - has lost its edge while the competition of Boeing and Airbus remains mighty.

Bombardier needs to raise money.

It has explored a tie-up, but to no avail, with one of its rivals Airbus - a move some observers claim demonstrates desperation.

Foreign investment has also been mooted, with interest having been shown in China.

Such a move would require political approval in Canada and may have implications for the founding Bombardier-Beaudoin family's control of the business.

There has also been talk of an investment bail-out from the Quebec state pension fund.

On the face of it, there are options at the same time as it chases a ground-breaking order from an established airline, like Air Canada.

Bombardier - which bought over Shorts in 1989 - is a jewel in the crown of the Northern Ireland economy and the stakes are high.

Image caption Wings for the CSeries are made in Belfast

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