MONTREAL/PARIS (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc BBDb.TO and Airbus SE AIR.PA named new leaders for the CSeries jetliner program on Wednesday, in a further step towards finalizing a deal for the European planemaker to take control of the Canadian project, according to memos seen by Reuters.
Airbus agreed last year to take control of the program for a symbolic Canadian dollar after the small, lightweight jetliner failed to win enough buyers and ran over-budget.
Philippe Balducchi, head of performance management for Airbus Commercial Aircraft, will be chief executive of the joint entity controlled by Airbus with six executives from each side, according to memos to staff of both companies.
Balducchi, who is well-known to aerospace analysts after a stint running investor relations at Europe’s largest aerospace group, reiterated the deal should close by mid-year.
“This is good news because there is a lot of appetite for this remarkable aircraft in the market,” he wrote in one of the memos.
Airbus and Bombardier both declined to comment.
The companies have said Airbus’ global sales network and greater bargaining power with suppliers should boost sales and lower the CSeries’ manufacturing costs.
Montreal-based Bombardier’s stock rose 1.8 percent in late-afternoon trading, breaking a three-day losing streak.
Sources familiar with the matter have said the companies have an internal target of closing the deal by the end of May after winning final regulatory approvals.
Bombardier is also due to announce quarterly earnings and hold its annual general meeting on Thursday.
In an effort to reassure Quebec’s roughly 2,000 CSeries workers, Balducchi reiterated the partnership would remain headquartered in the Montreal area and that the 110-to-130-seat jet would continue to be built there for global customers.
A separate facility in Alabama, alongside an existing Airbus plant, will be used for deliveries to U.S. buyers.
In other appointments, Airbus troubleshooter David Dufrenois was named head of CSeries sales with the task of winning over more airlines to the plane, which Airbus once saw as a threat to its smallest models but which it now regards as complementary.
The Airbus sales executive led a team focused on stabilizing sales of the A380 superjumbo and handled key accounts such as Qatar Airways, one of the industry’s most demanding buyers.
Rob Dewar, a Bombardier vice president seen by many as instrumental to the CSeries, will oversee support and engineering, according to one of the memos.
The CSeries deal leaves Quebec’s flagship industrial group with an aerospace business focused on regional jets and turboprops, as well as business jets and trains.
In one memo, Bombardier CEO Alain Bellemare said Commercial Aircraft President Fred Cromer - one of a number of former leasing executives originally hired to keep the CSeries afloat - will continue to lead its regional aircraft business.
Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang
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