Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. won an agreement to sell 100 regional planes to U.S. commuter carrier SkyWest Inc. (SKYW:US) in an endorsement of Japan’s first passenger jet at the expense of Canada’s Bombardier Inc. (BBD/B)
Deliveries of the planes, which have as many as 90 seats, will start in 2017 under the accord announced yesterday at the Farnborough air show outside London. SkyWest’s commitment, valued at $4.2 billion at list prices, pushed Mitsubishi’s orders and commitments for the jet to 230.
“It is a major boost for the MRJ program, which has struggled with delivery delays and weak orders, potentially positioning the MRJ for additional orders in the U.S. market,” Cameron Doerksen, an analyst with National Bank Financial in Montreal, said in a note to clients.
SkyWest is the largest operator of Bombardier regional jets, making the agreement “a negative” for the Montreal-based plane and train maker, Doerksen wrote. Bombardier, the world’s third-largest aircraft manufacturer, builds the CRJ regional-jet family, with models seating as many as 100 people.
The MRJ is scheduled to make its first flight in late 2013. Tokyo-based Mitsubishi has been working to reassure potential customers about the plane after a one-year delay and has said it is targeting airlines in North America and Asia as Europe’s debt crisis damps optimism about sales there.
SkyWest Shares Surge
SkyWest jumped 14 percent to $7.85 yesterday in New York, for its biggest daily gain since March 2009. Raymond James & Associates Inc. raised its rating on the shares of the St. George, Utah-based carrier to outperform from market perform.
Bombardier’s widely traded Class B stock fell 1 percent to C$4 in Toronto yesterday, paring a decline of as much as 3.2 percent. Mitsubishi parent Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) fell 1.3 percent to 312 yen at the market close in Tokyo.
The Mitsubishi announcement won’t preclude Bombardier from bidding for new business from SkyWest, which has indicated it may seek to replace a “large portion” of its 512 50-seat regional jets, wrote Doerksen, who has an outperform rating on the stock.
“SkyWest has a need for a much broader fleet replacement and we believe Bombardier remains positioned for an order from SkyWest, especially for its Q400 turboprop,” he said.
Bombardier is in talks with SkyWest over a potential regional-jet order that could include “hundreds of planes,” Marc Duchesne, a spokesman for the planemaker, said yesterday in a telephone interview from Farnborough.
“For us the CRJ is the ideal plane for SkyWest,” Duchesne said. “It’s already part of their fleet. It’s an existing plane that we can deliver in the coming quarters.”
Bombardier will separately announce an order for Q400 turboprops at the air show today, said Duchesne, who declined to give details.
SkyWest Chief Financial Officer Michael Kraupp didn’t respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment on a potential Bombardier jet purchase. The airline operates regional flights for carriers that include United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL:US) and Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL:US)
The MRJ will be equipped with engines from United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit, which are similar in design to power plants under development for Airbus SAS’s A320neo narrow-body jet.
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