January 16, 2019 / 9:07 PM / a month ago

Bombardier CEO sees decision on loss-making CRJ jet this year

MOBILE, Ala., Jan 16 (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc aims to make a decision this year on the future of its CRJ regional jet as it "aggressively" pursues new orders to secure its industrial future, the Canadian planemaker's chief executive said on Wednesday.

The company is exploring "all strategic options" for the loss-making programme including a potential sale, but its immediate focus is to win orders and cut costs, CEO Alain Bellemare told Reuters.

Asked whether Bombardier would reach a decision this year, he said, "I hope so, for sure. The more certainty we can provide the better but we are getting good traction".

Bellemare was speaking on the sidelines of a ceremony marking a new U.S. assembly line for the larger A220 jetliner development, which Bombardier agreed in 2017 to sell to a venture led by Europe's Airbus.

Bombardier, which had struggled to keep pace with the huge cash demands of a new aircraft programme, later sold its older Q400 turboprop programme and announced a review of the 20-year-old CRJ series.

"I don't want to drag this on for too long but a lot of that is not in my hands; it is also in customers' hands," Bellemare said.

"We are trying to see how we build a backlog. For us to keep this thing going we need to have a skyline (future production profile) that makes sense. We are willing to maybe reduce our production volume but at the same time we need to have sufficient volume to feed the supply chain," he added.

"We are very aggressive right now. We are working aggressively with airline customers. That's our number one priority."

Analysts say adding new orders and lowering costs are measures designed to throw the ageing CRJ programme a lifeline and make it more attractive to long-term investors.

The CRJ competes with Embraer regional jets and is helped by union "scope clause" rules in the United States restricting the size of jets used by regional airlines.

Bellemare played down concerns that the clauses could be renegotiated, hurting demand for the CRJ, saying they had historically been hard for airline managements to change. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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