Bombardier
The wings of Bombardier's CSeries aircrafts are made in a Belfast factory employing more than 4,000 people Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images

Aerospace giants Airbus and Bombardier have unveiled a deal that will see the former buy a majority stake in the latter's C Series programme.

France-based Airbus will buy a 50.01% interest in C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership, which manufactures and sells the jets, while Bombardier will own a 31% stake, with Investissement Québec holding the remaining 19% once the deal is finalised.

Airbus's chief executive, Tom Enders described the deal as a "win-win" situation for both parties.

"I have no doubt that our partnership with Bombardier will boost sales and the value of this programme tremendously," he said.

"Not only will this partnership secure the C Series and its industrial operations in Canada, the UK and China, but we also bring new jobs to the US. Airbus will benefit from strengthening its product portfolio in the high-volume single-aisle market, offering superior value to our airline customers worldwide."

Alain Bellemare, president and chief executive officer of Bombardier, added: "Airbus is the perfect partner for us, Quebec and Canada. This partnership should more than double the value of the C Series programme and ensures our remarkable game-changing aircraft realises its full potential."

The surprise move, which was announced late on Monday night (16 October), comes a month after the US government imposed an import tax of 80% on Bombardier's C Series jets, on top of a 220% tariff already set, after aerospace giant Boeing complained the Canadian company was selling its planes at "absurdly low" prices.

The wings of C Series jets are produced in Belfast, where Bombardier employs 4,000 people and, according to Boeing, any form of aid from the Canadian and British governments amounts to an illegal subsidy.

The new tariffs have put Bombardier, which is due to begin delivering up to 125 planes to Atlanta-based Delta Airline next year, under severe pressure. Last week, Bombardier workers called on Theresa May and her government to do more to safeguard jobs, after the government was accused of failing to go beyond "fluffy words" to ensure operations at the Belfast plant will not be affected.

Bombardier is one of the largest private sector employers in Northern Ireland, with operations spanning across four different plants and the impasse surrounding the trade dispute is a major headache for the PM, who had repeatedly stated Britain and the US would enjoy a "special relationship" as the UK looked to strengthen commercial ties with the world's largest economy in the lead-up to Brexit.

Furthermore, May has a key alliance with the Northern Ireland-based Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to support her minority government in Parliament and, last month, the PM called on Trump to intervene in the trade dispute following pressure from the DUP.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the deal was "significant news", while Business Secretary Greg Clark hailed it as a positive step.

"We have been active alongside our Canadian counterparts to work to secure the future of the C Series and safeguard jobs and manufacturing at Bombardier Shorts in Belfast, and the supply chain across the UK," he explained.

"We will continue to work closely with the companies to protect UK interests and with the Canadian government to ensure the unjustified case brought by Boeing is brought to a swift resolution.

"There is some way to go before the deal is completed and our number one priority throughout will be the workforce in Northern Ireland."

Boeing, however, was predictably less enthusiastic about the deal. "This looks like a questionable deal between two heavily state-subsidised competitors to skirt the recent findings of the US government," the US giant said. "Our position remains that everyone should play by the same rules for free and fair trade to work."