Quebec will not invest in Bombardier's regional jet program: economy minister

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Quebec’s economy minister said on Monday his government has ruled out investing in Bombardier Inc’s weak-selling regional jet program, which could be sold to Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

FILE PHOTO: Bombardier's logo is seen on the building of the company's service centre at Biggin Hill, Britain March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said his government is taking steps to protect jobs within the Canadian province’s aerospace sector, but he will not invest billions of taxpayer dollars to boost sales of the regional jet program which is assembled near Montreal.

The Quebec government previously invested $1 billion for a stake in Bombardier’s flagship narrowbody jet program, which is now owned by Europe’s Airbus SE.

“Is the Quebec government going to invest $2 billion in the CRJ? The answer is no,” he said, he said, referring to Bombardier’s regional jet program. He spoke in an interview on the sidelines of the Economic Forum of the Americas in Montreal.

“It’s not going to happen. It would be foolish for me to take $2 billion from Quebec taxpayers to put that in the CRJ program. But I’m working very closely with the company to make sure that we maintain this employment within aerospace.”

Mitsubishi said last week it was holding talks to buy Bombardier’s regional jet program, but no decision had been made.

The Canadian plane and train maker has been reorganizing its business, recently combining its aviation units to focus on more profitable business jets and passenger rail cars.

Bombardier is trying to find a solution for its CRJ program, which has no order book past 2020.

Nevertheless, CRJ’s profitable aftermarket sales and engineering expertise would be useful for Mitsubishi, which is trying to develop and certify its delayed regional jet program, the MRJ.

It is not clear whether production of the planes would continue if a deal with Mitsubishi were completed. Bombardier said it has approximately 1,600 employees working on the CRJ program around the world, with 40% in Canada.

Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Matthew Lewis