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Bombardier upholds five-year plan amid cash flow uncertainty

Bombardier continues to insist its five-year turnaround plan remains on track, though the company says free cash flow could still be negative in 2018.

The Montreal-manufacturer has long upheld that its free cash flow would breakeven next year.

The company still says it will achieve that goal, but Bombardier now defines "breakeven" as within a wide positive-negative range.

"Bombardier is targeting to achieve free cash flow breakeven in 2018, plus or minus $150 million," it says.

The company clarifies that its 2018 projections do not take into account a planned acquisition by Airbus of 50.01% of the CSeries programme. That deal could close in the second half of 2018, Airbus and Bombardier have said.

Bombardier provides no additional details, but executives will likely further discuss the company's projections during a meeting with investment analysts scheduled for later on 14 December.

Bombardier expects to end 2017 with about $1 billion in negative free cash flow.

“As we approach the half-way point of our five-year turnaround plan, we continue to meet our commitments and build a strong foundation for generating sustainable profit growth,” Bombardier chief executive Alain Bellemare says in the release. “We remain very much on track to achieve our 2017 guidance, our 2018 free cash flow goal, and see a clear path to deliver on our 2020 objectives.”

Bombardier projects it will generate $17 billion to $17.5 billion in revenue in 2018, up about $1 billion from 2017, with the commercial aircraft division generating a projected $2.7 billion in 2018 revenue.

"This growth is expected to be driven by the ramp-up of key projects at Bombardier Transportation and higher CSeries aircraft deliveries," the company says.

If the Airbus deal closes, Bombardier projects earning annual revenue of $20 million by 2020 and free cash flow between $750 million and $1 billion.

In its 2016 financial report, the company had targeted 2020 revenue of more than $25 billion.

Bombardier projects revenue from the commercial aircraft division in 2020 will be $1.5 billion if the Airbus deal closes, or $5 billion if it does not.

Analysts have questioned Bombardier's ability to reach free cash flow neutrality in 2018, citing uncertainty about its Global 7000 business jet programme and its ability to deliver CSeries to US customer Delta Air Lines.

"With the uncertainty about the timing, and how the company will sell the CSeries into the US, Bombardier could continue to generate negative free cash flow in 2018, dependent on a final US duty ruling," Moody's Investors Service said in a November report.

Bombardier's ability to sell CSeries in the USA has been uncertain since Boeing filed a trade dispute against Bombardier in April.

The US government is expected to decide in February 2018 whether to slap CSeries with import duties that could be up to 299% of Delta's reported purchase price.

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