Bombardier Drops Iconic Learjet to Focus on Luxury Models

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Bombardier Inc. will stop making Learjet planes and cut 1,600 jobs as part of a wide-ranging plan to boost profitability and reduce costs.

Production of the iconic private aircraft, which came onto the market almost six decades ago, will cease in the fourth quarter, the Montreal-based manufacturer said in a statement Thursday. That will allow the company to focus on its larger, faster and more lucrative Challenger and Global business jets.

“Given the increasingly challenging market dynamics, we have made this difficult decision,” said Chief Executive Officer Eric Martel.

The moves will go toward a cost-saving target of $400 million annually by 2023, Montreal-based Bombardier said, including $100 million this year. Planemakers globally are scaling back to cope with anemic demand as the coronavirus pandemic upended global travel.

Bombardier has been selling off major units to lower its heavy debt burden and improve cash flows. The company sold its C Series narrow-body aircraft program to Airbus SE, and last month completed the sale its rail division to Alstom SA. A factory in Northern Ireland used to make aircraft wings is now owned by Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says

Bombardier’s decision to shutter the Learjet line by the end of 2021 confirms the intensity of competition within the small to medium-cabin business-jet market. A number of companies have refreshed or added products to these segments, likely hurting pricing and margins.

-- George Ferguson and Francois Duflot, aerospace analysts

Modeled by inventor Bill Lear on a Swiss fighter aircraft and made in Wichita, Kansas, the Learjet has racked up more than 3,000 deliveries since 1963 debut and was once the epitome of luxury travel for celebrities like Frank Sinatra.

It’s since fallen out of favor, though, as private-plane buyers switched to larger, more comfortable, longer-range models.

Bombardier sees 2021 as a transition year, as it focuses on its remaining business of making business jets, which it said should generate higher revenue than last year as the global economy gradually recovers from the pandemic. The company on Thursday forecast that adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization would top $500 million, below the average estimate of $718.5 million among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

The shares dropped 14% to 63 Canadian cents at 10:30 a.m. in Toronto after falling to as low as 62 Canadian cents for the sharpest decline in two months. Bombardier had slumped by about half over the 12 months through Wednesday, valuing the company at C$1.8 billion ($1.4 billion), though partially rebounded this year.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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