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Bombardier loses top business-jet ranking to Gulfstream

Pilots walk out of a Bombardier Challenger 300 business jet.

Kin Cheung/AP

Bombardier Inc. lost its position as the global business jet leader in 2013 for the first time in nearly a decade as Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.'s billings were $1-billion (U.S.) more than its Canadian rival, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association said Wednesday.

Montreal-based Bombardier said it had anticipated that Gulfstream's new G650 would have an impact on the global ranking, but that it aims to regain the edge it had held since 2005.

"We still hope that the top spot is within reach in the short- and medium-term future," spokeswoman Annie Cossette said Wednesday.

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The GAMA report is the latest bad news for Bombardier, which reported weak financial results that caused its shares to plummet after it reduced its profit target for 2014.

Bombardier expects to deliver 200 business jets this year, 11 per cent more than last year, and is developing a number of new business jets that could help it longer term.

However, only the Challenger 350 is expected to be available for delivery this year. The Learjet 85 has yet to make its maiden flight and the long-range Global 7000/8000 isn't expected to be delivered until 2016 and 2017.

Bombardier sold 25 per cent more aircraft than Gulfstream in 2013, but the Savannah, Ga.-based company generated higher revenue of $7.35-billion.

Bombardier sold 180 business jets in 2013, one more than in 2012, as the value of its billings increased 8.6 per cent to $6.33-billion.

Bombardier deliveries included 62 large Global planes, 32 Challenger 605s, 55 Challenger 300s and 29 Learjets. The relative weakness in the small jet market saw Learjet deliveries fall by 10 planes, offset by the shipment of eight more Globals and seven more Challenger 300s.

Gulfstream's total deliveries increased 53 per cent to 144 aircraft, including 121 larger models and 23 Gulfstream 150s and 280s. The company declined to comment on gaining the world's top sales ranking.

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Bombardier had previously said it was hopeful of remaining on top for an eighth consecutive year with a strong fourth quarter, but its billings trailed Gulfstream in all of the final three quarters of the year.

The industry shipped 678 business jets last year, six more planes than in 2012. However, total billings increased 23 per cent as a result of growth in the more expensive, larger cabin segment, partially offset by continued challenges in small- and medium-sized planes.

Total aircraft shipments, including single- and twin-engine turboprops, rose 4.3 per cent to 2,256 planes as billings grew 24 per cent to $23.4-billion. That was the second-highest level since 2008.

The association said improved numbers across all categories is fuelling "cautious optimism into 2014" as new aircraft are set to be introduced.

But CEO Pete Bunce said business jets is the one area of the industry the association is most concerned about.

Economic weakness in Europe and the United States has affected orders for smaller planes, while demand for larger aircraft has been growing in the Middle East. "How those economies continue to recover will impact the fortunes of the light- and mid-market," he said during a news conference webcast from Washington, D.C.

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Mr. Bunce said the introduction of new light- and medium-sized jets will help this segment to begin to improve. "I think we will actually see that part of the market pick up a little bit in 2014 just due to the long lead nature of the products that we provide."

The recovery in the light business jet segment has taken longer than anticipated but Cossette said Bombardier has invested heavily to position the company when economic conditions improve.

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