Firm orders for Bombardier's CSeries reach 182 after Iraq deal

Bombardier's CSeries aircraft lands after its first test flight in Mirabel, Quebec September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

(Reuters) - Bombardier Inc said on Wednesday that Iraqi Airways has signed a firm purchase agreement to acquire five of its larger CSeries jetliners, ending a six-month order drought for the new plane.

The CS300, which seats between 130 and 160 passengers, is part of Bombardier’s $3.4 billion program to build an all-new narrow body jetliner to compete with the smaller planes built by aerospace giants Boeing Co and Airbus.

The $387 million agreement with Iraq’s national carrier follows a letter of intent announced last month. It brings the total number of CSeries firm orders to 182.

Iraqi Airways has options on 11 additional CS300s, making the potential value of the deal at $1.26 billion at list prices.

Bombardier has repeatedly said it expects to have 300 firm orders by the time the CSeries boards its first commercial passenger, currently slated for next fall.

But firm orders have been slow after some nine months of development delays, with potential customers waiting for flight test data to confirm Bombardier’s fuel and cost savings claims. This is the first firm order since Ilyushin Finance’s order announced on June 4.

Bombardier has said test flights, which began in September, are going according to plan. But analysts still widely expect the entry-into-service date - initially set for an aggressive 12 months from first flight - to be pushed back.

Bombardier said on Tuesday it had replaced its head CSeries salesman with an experienced executive from its business jet division.

Reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Jeffrey Benkoe