Bombardier Inc. BBD-B-T is predicting better financial results on several key metrics for the coming year as the Canadian luxury jet manufacturer continues to pull in wealthy customers who are shrugging off recession fears.
The Montreal-based plane maker released fourth-quarter and annual earnings Thursday morning that confirmed the preliminary results it reported last month. It also published a bullish new forecast for the year, saying it expects to boost adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by 21 per cent over 2022 while increasing revenue by 10 per cent year-over-year.
Revenue for fiscal 2023 should be at least US$7.6-billion as the company ships out a minimum of 138 jets while servicing more planes, Bombardier said. If it hits that mark, it would do so two years ahead of the US$7.5-billion revenue target it set in March, 2021. The company delivered 123 planes in 2022.
“Our clients are resilient” in the face of inflation and worsening economic indicators in many parts of the world, Bombardier chief executive officer Eric Martel told reporters on a call. “People buy our planes for productivity and all kinds of other reasons. And they’re continuing to buy.”
After years of turmoil at Bombardier in which it teetered on the verge of bankruptcy before selling off its train unit, Mr. Martel is trying to stage a recovery for the industrial giant that hinges on a slimmed-down business model focused solely on selling and servicing private jets.
The company tapped an unexpected surge toward private plane travel during the COVID-19 pandemic but it’s the company’s decision years ago to narrow its manufacturing to bigger and pricier jets such as the US$75-million Global 7500 that is now paying dividends. While many customers borrowed to pay for their jets when interest rates were low, they’re now using more of their own cash, Mr. Martel said.
Other makers of luxury goods are expressing the same optimism as Bombardier. Italian automaker Ferrari NV last week hiked its financial outlook for the year, citing strong demand for cars including the new Purosangue. Its list price is €390,000 ($563,000). Meanwhile, luxury empire LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE reported a 9-per-cent increase in sales for its latest quarter, not including currency swings and recent acquisitions.
This shows that “high-net-worth individuals are still spending, and that macroeconomic slowdown is a two-tailed story that is not affecting high- vs. low-income consumers equally,” Desjardins Capital Markets analyst Benoît Poirier said in a research note ahead of Thursday’s results. “We expect this trend to continue.”
Bombardier said its adjusted EBITDA for the coming year should be greater than US$1.1-billion compared with last year’s US$930-million. It said the gain will be fuelled by positive tailwinds from its Global 7500 jet and the near completion of its cost-cutting effort.
Free cash flow should come in higher than US$250-million for the coming year compared with last year’s US$735-million, the company said. Its backlog of orders stood at US$14.8-billion at the end of December, a rate analysts believe equates to more than two years of production.
The plane maker paid down US$1.1-billion of debt in 2022, helping it lower its interest costs. It posted a net profit of US$241-million or US$2.40 a diluted share for the fourth quarter.
Bombardier generates most of its money selling luxury jets to billionaires and charter operators. But it also has a small but growing defence business, consisting of specialized aircraft used by governments for intelligence, reconnaissance and other applications.
Late last year, Mr. Martel voiced concerns over media reports the Canadian government was considering a multibillion-dollar purchase of P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance jets directly from Boeing Co. BA-N to replace the military’s CP-140 Aurora aircraft. Buying directly means Ottawa would sidestep Canada’s home-grown aerospace industry by rejecting an open bidding process.
The CEO raised the issue again Thursday, saying in a speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto: “We’re not asking for charity. We’re asking to be part of the process. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. But at least to have a shot at it.”
Mr. Martel said he’s still waiting for a clear answer from the Canadian government about its intentions.
Bombardier and Boeing have a thorny recent history. In 2016, the two companies clashed in a high-profile trade dispute that pitted the United States against Canada.
Boeing claimed Bombardier cheated U.S. trade rules by selling CSeries jets to Delta Air Lines Inc. at “absurdly low prices” while benefiting from unfair subsidies from the Canadian and Quebec governments. The issue escalated and Ottawa threatened to scrap plans to buy 18 fighter jets from Boeing in retaliation. In the end, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled against Boeing and rival Airbus SE eventually took over the CSeries program.