Airbus Is Said to See C Series Deal Closing as Early as Mid-Year

(Bloomberg) -- Airbus SE’s deal to take a controlling stake in the Bombardier Inc. C Series jetliner program could be finalized by the time of the Farnborough Air Show this summer, according to people familiar with the matter.

Antitrust approval for the plan, which the planemakers had been seeking by the end of the year, is likely to come earlier than expected, according to the people, who asked not to be named as the regulatory procedures are private. The process has so far produced no issues whatsoever, one person said.

Faster signoff on the Bombardier accord could allow Toulouse, France-based Airbus to start marketing the C Series alongside its own A320 narrow-body family at the Farnborough expo, the year’s largest, which starts July 16. It once seemed that Boeing Co. would dominate the show southwest of London with the launch of a new mid-sized jet dubbed the 797, though the U.S. company has since indicated that it may take longer to build the business case.

Airbus and Bombardier both declined to comment on the state of the antitrust process, repeating earlier guidance on the timescale.

Montreal-based Bombardier struck the deal with Airbus in October after a U.S. ruling that the C Series had received illegal Canadian aid put the program’s future in doubt. The European company said it would build the jet at a factory in Alabama, avoiding crippling import tariffs imposed as a penalty, though in the event the preliminary American verdict was overturned. French President Emmanuel Macron is due to visit Bombardier’s facilities in Quebec in June.

The future Boeing model, officially known as the New Mid-market Airplane or NMA, is likely to be a major focus of attention at Farnborough whether launched there or not, since it’s the only original passenger aircraft under development at the two dominant planemakers.

While Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. are interested in the jet, which would replace aging Boeing 757 and 767 fleets, Chinese carriers may prefer a bigger cargo hold than be accommodated with the planned oval cross-section fuselage. That in turn could potentially require a design rethink.

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