Wires

UPDATE 1-Bombardier to sell its aerostructures unit to Spirit AeroSystems

Allison Lampert and Mike Stone

(Updates with Bombardier statement)

MONTREAL/WASHINGTON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Canada's Bombardier said on Thursday it had agreed to sell its aerostructures business to Spirit AeroSystems for more than $700 million in cash and debt.

Reuters broke the news on the sale earlier in the day citing two sources familiar with the matter.

As part of the deal, Bombardier will sell two aerostructure facilities - the Belfast plant and another in Morocco - along with a smaller repair plant in Dallas comes as the Canadian company sheds its commercial aviation business to focus on its higher-margin business jets and rail divisions.

"This transaction represents another strategic milestone in the reshaping of our portfolio to focus on our strong business aircraft and rail franchises," Bombardier Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare said in a statement. Analysts have previously said a deal would be strategic for Spirit, an aerospace components maker, as it diversifies its customer base away from Boeing Co. Spirit is Boeing's largest supplier, but the company has plans to grow its business with Europe's Airbus.

Reuters previously reported that Wichita-based Spirit had emerged as the front-runner to acquire the facilities.

The Belfast plant, which produces wings for Airbus's A220 jet, is considered politically sensitive as it is the largest high-tech manufacturer in Northern Ireland with a workforce of around 3,500. The A220 program is growing with Airbus recording a backlog of 435 of the 110 to 130 seat jets as of Sept. 30.

The deal would include the assumption of liabilities, including pension obligations.

Bombardier also reported a lower quarterly profit as it spent more on stepping up production of its Global 7500 business jets.

Spirit reports its third-quarter results later on Thursday. (Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal and Mike Stone in Washington Additional reporting by Eric Johnson and Ankit Ajmera Editing by Denny Thomas, Jane Wardell and Shinjini Ganguli)