Amid suggestions that Quebec aerospace giant Bombardier may be poised to announce the sale of its rail division, Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon was tight-lipped Wednesday about what’s in store.
“I know everything that’s going to happen, but I’m not at ease to talk about it,” Fitzgibbon told reporters. Bombardier’s board is meeting today, and the minister said he can’t reveal anything ahead of Thursday’s announcement. The company will release its financial results for 2019 after 6 a.m. ET Thursday and hold a conference call at 8 a.m. ET.
He would not address media reports from Reuters and BFM, a television station in France, that rail company Alstom is preparing an offer to buy Bombardier’s rail division. The Caisse de dépôt et placement, Quebec’s pension fund manager, which owns 30 per cent of the rail division, would be paid in Alstom shares, according to those reports.
That latest news follows months of reports that Bombardier has been in talks with various buyers to sell the division, which has been plagued by delays and problems with orders, in an effort to free up cash to slash its massive $9-billion US debt.
Bombardier employs about 400 workers making trains at its factory in La Pocatière, in the Lower Saint Lawrence region northeast of Quebec City. Another 13,000 people work on Bombardier’s various aerospace projects in the Montreal area, according to the CSN and AIMTA unions.
When asked if jobs would be maintained in Quebec, Fitzgibbon said he was “confident that Quebecers will be happy tomorrow morning.”
Business jet division
The rail division is not the only part of Bombardier’s shrinking empire reported to be up for grabs.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the American company Textron is interested in buying Bombardier’s business jet division, makers of the Global and Challenger lines.
As well, Bombardier said in January that it was “reassessing its ongoing participation” in its partnership with Airbus to manufacture the A220, formerly known as the C Series.
Despite the Quebec government’s $1.3 billion investment in the C Series in 2016, sales of the planes were initially slow, leading Bombardier to sell a controlling stake of the C Series program to Airbus in 2018 for $1.
While A220 orders have since started rolling in, Bombardier would need to inject more money into the program to ramp up production.
Premier François Legault has ruled out investing more government money in the A220 program, but Fitzgibbon said that he wants to protect Quebec’s investment in the plane.