It's very close to showtime for Bombardier Inc.'s new 100-seat-plus C Series commercial jet.
The plane on which Bombardier has so much riding is set for its first test flight by the end of June.
It will be a landmark event for the company, barring any glitches that might require a second delay after last year's six-month holdup.
Bombardier president and chief executive officer Pierre Beaudoin is betting big on the success of the C Series program and he's counting on a "mission accomplished" first flight to help enhance the plane's profile and boost less-than-impressive sales to date.
Expect the C Series to be front-and-centre as Bombardier unveils its first-quarter results on Thursday. Investors and analysts will be looking for reassurance that the much-anticipated aircraft is at last ready for its closeup.
Bombardier has become an "event/catalyst driven name" and "all eyes are turned towards the C Series first flight and to whether the company can get this plane off the ground before the end of June," CIBC World Markets analyst Kevin Chiang said in a recent research update.
"The success of [its] first flight will be used as a barometer to gauge the ability for Bombardier to execute on its C Series program."
Chris Murray of PI Financial Corp. said in a note that he's encouraged by a recent company update on the program, as well as a visit to the C Series cabin demonstrator. He has a $5.25 price target on the stock.
"We expect first flight remains a powerful catalyst for new orders, although [we] still expect it likely that some issues will arise during flight tests," he said.
He believes that regional- and business-jet maker Bombardier has developed a better platform for the 100- to 150-seat market. Bombardier is up against the formidable Boeing Co.-Airbus SAS near-duopoly, which hogs the space. Mr. Murray's 12-month target is also $5.25.
National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen agrees that an update on Thursday is key. Confirmation that progress is being made on the C Series should be a major driver for the stock in the short term, he said in a research note, adding that "risk remains on the program.
"However, we see a higher stock price should first flight go as planned and as new orders for the plane are announced."
He is maintaining his "outperform" rating and target of $4.75.