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Enders expects new alliances in response to CSeries deal

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders predicts the next few months could be “rough and tough” as Boeing responds to the European airframer’s acquisition of the Bombardier CSeries programme.

In remarks to Montreal’s Chamber of Commerce on 20 October, Enders also justified Airbus’ proactive approach to competitive strategy in a perhaps thinly-veiled poke at his American competitor.

“My philosophy has always been it’s much better to be proactive and throw the first stone into the pond than reacting to the initiatives of others,” Enders says.

Airbus announced the pending deal to acquire a 50.1% stake in CSALP, a joint venture between Bombardier and Investissement Quebec. Bombardier’s ownership stake would decline to 31%, with Investissement Quebec holding a 19% share. Enders also has proposed opening a second assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, where Airbus opened a factory for the A320 aircraft family in 2015.

The deal extends Airbus’ commercial aircraft portfolio with the 110-seat CS100 and 130-seat CS300, giving Airbus another option to sell against the Embraer 120-seat E195 and 130-seat Boeing 737 Max 7. It’s not clear how Boeing and Embraer will respond to the deal, but Enders doesn’t expect them to maintain the status quo.

“There’s no doubt that we are throwing a big stone in the global aerospace industry pond and there are ripples, and there will be new alliances formed as a, you know, reaction to that, [and] new products being launched,” Enders says. “We can’t prevent that from happening obviously. We thrive on competition in the global marketplace.”

Enders also hints that he expects Boeing, which he referred to as “The B-Guy”, to respond in non-commercial ways, too. Boeing already had used Bombardier’s sale of 75 CS100s to Delta Air Lines as a pretext for a trade complaint with the US Commerce Department, which in response made a preliminary decision to assess a 300% tariff on all CSeries deliveries to Delta.

Boeing already has responded that the tariffs will remain in effect even if Airbus delivers the CSeries from a future plant in Mobile.

“The B-Guy will certainly throw everything our way they can figure. So the coming months you know might be a little bit rough and tough but we’ve seen that before and absolutely confident that the two companies ... we can prevail,” Enders says.

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