* Rebound will trail economic recovery by 18-24 mos
* Shares flat (Adds details throughout)
BOSTON, May 19 (Reuters) - Textron Inc (TXT.N) expects deliveries of corporate jets to continue to decline next year, with recovery likely to trail corporate America’s return to profit growth by a year and a half, the diversified U.S. manufacturer’s chief executive said on Tuesday.
“I think deliveries will be slightly less next year than this year,” CEO Lewis Campbell told an investor conference in Florida that was monitored over the Internet. “Don’t read me as bullish on the return of business jets. I’m not bullish on it. We haven’t reached the bottom yet.”
Demand for business aircraft has collapsed this year, as a brutal recession left companies looking for any way to cut spending. The sector has been further hit by an image blow — private jets became something of a symbol of corporate excess after the heads of big Detroit automakers used them to fly to Washington to seek federal aid.
Textron’s Cessna unit, the world’s largest maker of corporate aircraft, now expects to deliver 290 to 300 planes this year, down from 467 in 2008. It is cutting its staff by about 45 percent, to a target of 8,900 people by the year’s end, and postponed plans for a new class of larger aircraft as it looks to cut costs
Cessna will face a large number of order cancellations in the second quarter as a result of the decision to suspend that larger aircraft, which would have been called the Columbus.
History shows that a rebound in demand for business aircraft tends to follow a recovery in overall corporate profits by six to eight quarters, Campbell said.
Textron shares were flat at $11.41 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Scott Malone, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Dave Zimmerman)