The wings to Bombardier Inc.'s C Series test plane have been snapped into place, assembly is going smoothly and the company is aiming for a first flight in June.
Meanwhile, investors wouldn't mind some lift to the company's perennially underperforming stock.
Bombardier will unveil its fourth-quarter numbers on Thursday amid a still-dicey market for regional jets, weak profit margins and continuing uncertainty over the prospects for the all-new, untested transcontinental C Series jet.
The key to injecting some life into the moribund shares – languishing in the $4 range, compared with the more than $7 they were trading at roughly two years ago – is solidly encouraging 2013 guidance, BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. analyst Fadi Chamoun said.
"We sense that results and guidance could prove to be a positive catalyst for the stock in light of low expectations and attractive valuation," he said in a recent research note.
The outlook for business-jet sales, in particular, should be encouraging.
Bombardier's other business – rail equipment – should also show decent revenue growth for Q4, a trend that could continue into 2013, Mr. Chamoun said.
He's expecting earnings per share of 12 cents, one cent above the analysts' consensus estimate. Jacques Kavafian of Toll Cross Securities Inc. is looking for EPS of 11 cents.
The recent grounding of Boeing Co.'s new 787 Dreamliner after incidents involving lithium-ion batteries on two aircraft isn't the ideal context for Bombardier to be marketing the fledgling C Series, Mr. Kavafian said.
"A new airplane type having problems. That's the kind of thing that doesn't help."
Bombardier has already had to delay the first C Series test flight by six months as a result of internal production chain problems, creating some investor nervousness.
"There could be a pickup in orders once it's in operation and has demonstrated the promised performance metrics," he said in an interview.
David Tyerman of Canaccord Genuity Corp. is hoping
Bombardier senior executives on the conference call offer an improved outlook for regional jets, which have been in a slump.
And the company's move to upgrade to larger regional jets bodes well for an uptick in sales, said Mr. Tyerman, who has a 12-cent EPS target for Q4.
"The potential for the company is much greater than what we're seeing in the earnings now."