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Quebec will not invest in Bombardier's regional jet programme: minister

[MONTREAL] Quebec's economy minister said on Monday his government has ruled out investing in Bombardier Inc's weak-selling regional jet programme, which could be sold to Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said his government is taking steps to protect jobs within the Canadian province's aerospace sector, but he will not invest billions of taxpayer dollars to boost sales of the regional jet program which is assembled near Montreal.

The Quebec government previously invested US$1 billion for a stake in Bombardier's flagship narrowbody jet program, which is now owned by Europe's Airbus SE.

"Is the Quebec government going to invest US$2 billion in the CRJ? The answer is no," he said, he said, referring to Bombardier's regional jet programme. He spoke in an interview on the sidelines of the Economic Forum of the Americas in Montreal.

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"It's not going to happen. It would be foolish for me to take US$2 billion from Quebec taxpayers to put that in the CRJ programme. But I'm working very closely with the company to make sure that we maintain this employment within aerospace."

Mitsubishi said last week it was holding talks to buy Bombardier's regional jet programme, but no decision had been made.

The Canadian plane and train maker has been reorganising its business, recently combining its aviation units to focus on more profitable business jets and passenger rail cars.

Bombardier is trying to find a solution for its CRJ programme, which has no order book past 2020.

Nevertheless, CRJ's profitable aftermarket sales and engineering expertise would be useful for Mitsubishi, which is trying to develop and certify its delayed regional jet programme, the MRJ.

It is not clear whether production of the planes would continue if a deal with Mitsubishi were completed. Bombardier said it has approximately 1,600 employees working on the CRJ programme around the world, with 40 per cent in Canada.