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UPDATE 2-Bombardier beats earnings forecasts as sales of business jets rise

John Benny

(Adds CEO quote, adds details on transportation unit)

Feb 14 (Reuters) - Canada's Bombardier Inc topped analysts' forecasts for quarterly earnings on Thursday, bolstered by higher sales at its business jets business, which is benefiting from rising global demand for air travel.

The results come as the Montreal-based plane and train manufacturer nears the end of a five-year turnaround which followed a series of heavy investments aimed at launching two planes that drove the company to the brink of bankruptcy.

The company is now hoping that its just launched Global 7500 business jet, which is sold out through 2021, will help boost annual revenue by 10 percent this year and to over $20 billion by 2020.

Revenue from sales of business jets rose more than 3 percent to $1.5 billion in the final quarter of 2018, Bombardier said on Thursday.

"Our major program risks are retired, our heavy investment cycle is behind us and our franchises are well positioned for growth," its Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare in a statement.

Still, quarterly revenue from Bombardier's dominant transportation unit that makes rail cars and equipment, fell nearly 11 percent to $2.16 billion as it faced delays in fulfilling several contracts.

The company faces pressure to improve its performance on several transportation orders, including those in Toronto, New York City and Switzerland.

Bombardier also said that Canada's second-largest public pension fund CDPQ's minority stake in its transportation unit would increase by 2.5 percent to 30 percent due to poor performance in 2018.

The company has committed to growing revenues at its transportation division to $10 billion by 2020.

Its quarterly net profit overall reached $55 million, compared with a $188 million net loss a year earlier when it made heavy investments in its jet programs.

Earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT), a closely watched measure of Bombardier's profitability, also beat analysts' estimates, rising to $342 million from $73 million a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 5 cents per share, above analysts' estimates of 2 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. (Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)