Airbus increases its stake in the A220 as it seals biggest ever African order

Green Africa Airways has signed a MoU for 50 A220-300 jets
Ryan McAleer

EUROPEAN aerospace giant Airbus now owns 75 per cent of the A220 aircraft series, which features composite wings manufactured in Belfast.

The confirmation of the $591 million (£455m) deal on Thursday morning was quickly followed by the announcement of the biggest A220 order to date in Africa. Nigerian airline Green Africa Airways signed a memorandum of understanding for 50 of the larger A220-300 jets.

The move by Airbus to increase its interest in the narrow-body, formerly known as the C-series, comes less than 18 months after the European air-framer officially acquired a 51 per cent share of the programme in July 2018.

The joint venture with Bombardier left the Canadian transport group and government agency Investissement Québec, retaining the minority interest. The Government of Québec’s interest now stands at 25 per cent.

Bombardier’s sale of its share follows a recent trend where the Canadian giant has been steadily moving away from commercial aviation. Last year it agreed to sell its business in the north to Kansas-based Spirit Aerosystems.

The take-over, which includes around 3,500 Short Bros workers based in east Belfast, Dunmurry, Newtownabbey and Newtownards, is due to be completed later this year.

It’s understood that the Belfast operation, which owns the intellectual rights to the composite wings, will continue to supply Airbus, as it continues to ramp up the production of the series.

Spirit Aero is already a major supplier to Boeing in the US, but has been seeking to increase its workload with European-based Airbus.

With Boeing continuing to struggle amid the grounding of its troubled 737 Max aircraft, Airbus appears to be capitalising. The latest order for the A220 from Green Africa Airways came despite the Nigerian carrier being linked to a major order of the 737 Max.

The A220, which features two different-sized models, has been designed to cater for the 100 to 150-seater aircraft market.

Airbus said its new ownership marked its commitment to increase production of the A220.

Since taking its majority stake in the summer of 2018, Airbus said total cumulative net orders for the aircraft have increased by 64 per cent to 658 units up to the end of January 2020.

Airbus chief executive officer Guillaume Faury said: “This is good news for our customers and employees as well as for the Québec and Canadian aerospace industry.

“I would like to sincerely thank Bombardier for the strong collaboration during our partnership. We are committed to this fantastic aircraft programme and we are aligned with the Government of Québec in our ambition to bring long-term visibility to the Québec and Canadian aerospace industry.”

President of Bombardier Inc, Alain Bellemare, said: “We are confident that the A220 program will enjoy a long and successful run under Airbus’ and the Government of Québec’s stewardship.”

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