TORONTO (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO) got no orders for its new passenger jet, the CSeries, at this week’s Paris airshow, another setback for a much-delayed program that comes just as signs of a slowdown in the commercial jet market start to grow.
Despite the lack of new orders, the Montreal-based planemaker pronounced itself “absolutely satisfied” to have showcased two test planes in Paris, and said the narrow-body, medium-range CSeries is beating its fuel-burn and range targets, important efficiency metrics in the industry.
In contrast to Paris, at last year’s Farnborough International Air Show, Bombardier was able to announce a firm order for two CSeries jets and tentative deals to sell up to 66 more, even though an engine fire had grounded the CSeries test program. Paris and Farnborough are key sales events that take place in alternate years.
Even aside from the CSeries, Paris was not generous to Bombardier this year as it announced only one new firm order during the show, selling six Q400 turboprops to Canada’s WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO).
Meanwhile, Brazilian rival Embraer SA (EMBR3.SA) announced 50 firm orders for regional jets, and regional planemaker ATR, an Airbus and Finmeccanica SIFI.MI joint venture, announced 46.
“The goal for the airshow was to showcase two brand new CSeries aircraft,” said Bombardier spokeswoman Marianella Delabarrera. “The management team is absolutely satisfied.”
Delabarrera said the company met with 98 percent of the buyers it is targeting. “The orders, they will come,” she said.
Bombardier’s new management had tempered expectations ahead of the show, but investors had said they expected at least a few orders. Bombardier has not announced a new firm order for the CSeries, plagued with years of cost overruns and delays, since September.
To be sure, the new team running the $5.4 billion CSeries program had little time to line up deals before Paris. While Chief Executive Alain Bellemare took over in February, the new commercial aircraft president, Fred Cromer, was appointed in April, and his senior vice president for sales joined up in May.
Desjardins analyst Benoit Poirier said weak sales were expected, but still a negative.
“We believe it is still disappointing given the significant orders announced by ATR and Embraer, which represent missed opportunities,” he wrote in a note to clients. “Nevertheless, we were strongly impressed by the quality of the new management team.”
The CSeries is Bombardier’s biggest plane yet, and puts the company in tough competition with Airbus EAD.PA and Boeing (BA.N), as well as Embraer and ATR, in a market in which customers often prefer to buy new versions of jets they already own to minimize maintenance and training costs.
Bombardier’s timing may also be poor as many analysts say the commercial jet market is slowing after weathering the financial crisis on Asian demand.
Moderating demand would hit Bombardier just as it is looking to ramp up CSeries sales now that the plane’s certification looks all but guaranteed.
Efficiency is meant to be the CSeries’ edge, but years of delays have given Airbus and Boeing time to develop the more efficient A320neo and 737 MAX families, eroding that advantage.
“That size category has never been a volume market,” said Nick Cunningham, analyst at Agency Partners. “The issue is whether there’s enough volume to make an economic plane, and I guess we’re in the process of finding out.”
Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Peter Galloway