Bombardier Inc said on Wednesday it will sell as many as 120 aircraft to Warren Buffett's NetJets Inc, a deal that could be worth more than $6.7 billion and which sent its shares soaring 8.3 percent.
The deal includes a firm order of 50 jets with a list price of $2.8 billion and options to purchase a further 70. It is biggest sale of business aircraft sale for Bombardier, the world's No. 3 civil aircraft maker after Airbus and Boeing .
NetJets, which currently operates a global fleet of more than 800 aircraft, is the corporate aircraft unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc .
The purchase of 120 jets would be the largest aircraft purchase in the history of private aviation, Buffett said on CNBC television on Wednesday morning.
We have committed huge amounts in the anticipation of demand that occurs over the next 10 years, he said.
You don't build planes overnight, you don't get demand for them overnight, but there will be an increase in general aviation over the next decade.
Deliveries of 30 Global 5000 and Global Express XRS jets will start in the fourth quarter of 2012, while deliveries of 20 Global 7000 and 8000 jets will begin in 2017.
The order demonstrates the strong international demand that is fueling a recovery in the business jet market, analysts said.
This is a very unusual order. Typically you don't see orders of this magnitude, or this size, all at once, PI Financial analyst Chris Murray said.
NetJets is one of largest operators going, so they've decided that they're going to move into this space in a big way.
While airlines still account for most corporate travel, many businesses are gradually returning to private planes. They are eager to avoid airport hassles, flight delays and other logistical snags associated with commercial flying.
Continued strength in emerging market economies (particularly China and the Middle East) has resulted in strong international demand for business jets, CIBC World Markets analyst Michael Willimse wrote in a note.
Much of the rebound in the global economy has also been focused on high net-worth individuals, further driving demand for the large global jets.
Total business jet flights -- privately owned and charter -- rose 7 percent to 2.84 million in the 12-month period through September, with much of the growth seen in overseas travel, according to data tracked by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen upgraded his rating on Bombardier stock to outperform from sector perform and raised his stock price target to C$7.50 from C$7, citing increased optimism about the recovery of the business jet market.
Last month, Bombardier said it expects to deliver 150 business aircraft and 90 commercial aircraft in calendar 2011, mirroring its performance in the previous year.
Bombardier shares rose 51 Canadian cents to C$6.65 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in opening trade on Wednesday.
Bombardier said separately on Wednesday that it has acquired a 25 percent stake in Russian Railways subsidiary Elteza and could boost its holding to 50 percent. Financial terms were not disclosed.
(Reporting by Susan Taylor in Ottawa and Soyoung Kim in New York; Editing by Anshuman Daga and Peter Galloway)