By Ross Marowits
MONTREAL — Bombardier has made the biggest sale of business aircraft in its history with a deal to provide up to 142 Global aircraft to a private European luxury charter company in a transaction potentially worth up to US$7.8 billion.
VistaJet has placed firm orders for 56 of the large-cabin business jets and optioned a further 86 Global jets in a deal that will propel the U.K.-based company’s growth in emerging markets.
The firm orders are valued at US$3.1 billion at current list prices, although large orders typically obtain significant discounts. Options would add as much as $4.7 billion to the total value of the deal.
Cameron Doerksen of National Bank Financial estimates the firm order will add 15 cents per share to Montreal-based Bombardier’s bottom line and 35 cents per share if all options are exercised.
Doerksen said he remains “somewhat cautious” on Bombardier’s shares due to lingering uncertainty around the development of the CSeries jet for commercial airlines, the potential for weaker margin guidance from Bombardier, and the weak free cash flow generation that may persist through 2013.
“The VistaJet order is clearly positive for Bombardier and should give investors additional comfort around business jet delivery levels in the coming years,” Doerksen wrote in a report.
Benoit Poirier of Desjardins Capital Markets said the VistaJet announcement was a positive for Bombardier as it confirms its strong leadership in terms of market share in the high-end business jet segment.
Bombardier’s shares (TSX:BBD.B) took off in Tuesday trading, rising 26 cents, or 8.33, at C$3.38 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Based in the United Kingdom, VistaJet currently operates a fleet of Bombardier aircraft based in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and West Africa. The company told reporters Tuesday that it considered other aircraft manufacturers over 18 months before deciding to stick exclusively with Bombardier.
The company only maintains aircraft that are within the five-year warranty so some of the new planes will be used to replace its existing fleet. VistaJet took 17 deliveries last year and expects to see about one new plane added each month as of January 2014.
The new purchase is part of VistaJet’s goal of making business aviation more accessible to emerging markets, said VistaJet chairman Thomas Flohr, who founded the company in 2004.
“This order is the most significant milestone for VistaJet and is a testimony to our successful strategy that focuses on global coverage,” Flohr said in a joint statement by the companies.
“Our customers need to fly point-to-point across the globe, and in many instances at short notice,” he added, supporting the order for aircraft with longer ranges and cabin size, along with cockpit commonality.
VistaJet said the planes are aimed at underserved emerging markets, where demand has grown by 25 cents annually over the past four years driven by the “race for resources” in areas such as Russia, Africa and Mongolia.
Robert Stallard of RBC Capital Markets said the order is consistent with improving industry demand for large cabin business jets.
“We think this billionaire class of high-net worth individuals and corporate leaders remains resilient to the macroeconomic challenges in the US and Europe whilst the millionaire buyers of small cabin planes remain nervous on the outlook,” he wrote in a report.
“As a result, we think demand for large cabin bizjets from Gulfstream, Bombardier and Dassault remains solid, which supports key suppliers like Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, SAFRAN (Messier-Buggatti-Dowty), Rolls-Royce and Meggitt.”
The order follows a US$7.3 billion contract signed in June with NetJets for up to 275 Challenger mid-size jets and a US$6.7 billion deal in March 2011 also with NetJets for up to 120 Global series of jets. Bombardier also signed a 15-year service and maintenance contract with NetJets in June worth US$2.3 billion if all options are exercised.
NetJets is a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the main company of renowned billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
Steve Ridolfi, the president of Bombardier Business Aircraft, said the VistaJet contract was a historic order for Bombardier.
“It goes without saying that we are thrilled VistaJet has again chosen to grow their fleet with the industry-leading Global family,” Ridolfi said.
VistaJet has placed firm orders for 25 Global 5000s, 25 Global 6000s and six Global 8000 jets. Deliveries will begin in 2014.
The Montreal-based manufacturer said the order won’t likely result in job increases in Toronto where the plane is assembled or at the completion centre in Montreal.
“It’s a long-term agreement so we’re looking at orders over the next 10 years in terms of delivery so it’s going to fit into our workflow,” spokeswoman Danielle Boudreau said from London, where the deal was announced.
Several large components of the Global 5000 and 6000 aircraft are made at Bombardier’s plant in Queretaro, Mexico. The aft fuselage for the new Global 7000 and 8000 planes will also be built there.
The Global aircraft are Bombardier’s largest business aircraft and are believed to carry the biggest margins.
The Global 7000 is slated to enter into service in 2016 with a larger cabin and a 13,520-kilometre range that can carry 10 passengers non-stop between Beijing and Washington. The Global 8000 due to enter into service a year later will have the world’s longest-range business jet of 14,630 kilometres.
Analysts said Bombardier will likely result in it boosting the production rate from the current estimated pace of five aircraft per month. Bombardier said it won’t disclose if the rate of production will increase and said it’s premature to talk about rate increases because of the long-term delivery schedule.