Boeing profit narrows as economy hits orders

Boeing says its quarterly profit narrowed due to order deferrals by cash-strapped airlines, but its shares rose as the planemaker affirmed its production schedule.
Reuters notes that while Boeing also lowered its 2009 earnings outlook to between $4.70 and $5.00 per share, that range was still above Wall Street’s average expectation of $4.61 per share.
Excluding one-time items, Boeing’s profit beat market expectations by a few pennies, but the steady production program commanded most market attention.
“The thing that shocked me was they didn’t bring down any more production rates. I think this was an opportunity for them to do it,” said Alex Hamilton, senior managing director at Jesup & Lamont Securities.
“The consensus is that they need to bring these down.”
Shares of Boeing, a Dow component, were up 2 percent at $37.39 at midday on the New York Stock Exchange, after rising more than 3 percent earlier.
Boeing warned this month that its first-quarter profit would be hurt by lower-than-expected aircraft prices.
Prices are set about a year before delivery, determined by various economic barometers, which recently have signaled a poor performance for the world economy.
The company said on April 13 that production of its 777 minijumbo would fall to five per month from seven. But some analysts also expect production cuts to the 737.
Chicago-based Boeing and rival Airbus are being hit hard as carriers and cargo operators grapple with economic recession in many parts of the world.
Top US carriers like AMR Corp, UAL Corp and Continental Airlines all reported first-quarter losses.
So far in 2009, Boeing has seen more cancellations than orders for jets. In the first quarter, the company booked 28 orders, but removed 32.
“The expanded global economic downturn is presenting unprecedented challenges in our commercial airplane markets,” Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney said in a statement.
“Performance across the overwhelming majority of our programs remains solid, and we are making progress toward our milestones on the 787 (Dreamliner) and other important programs,” he said.
The world’s No. 2 planemaker said its first-quarter profit was $610 million, or 86 cents per share, compared with $1.21 billion, or $1.62 per share, a year earlier.
The results include the previously announced 38 cent-per- share reduction from revised twin-aisle commercial airplane production rates and lower price escalation forecasts.
The profit also was hurt by “a less favorable delivery mix in defense and higher expense for research and development,” Boeing said.
Excluding items, the company earned 87 cents per share, compared with a Wall Street consensus forecast for 91 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.
Total revenue rose 3 percent to $16.5 billion. Revenue from its commercial airplane division rose 5 percent to $8.55 billion. Revenue from its integrated defense systems unit rose 2 percent to $7.72 billion. And revenue from Boeing Capital rose 12 percent to $163 million.
The company made 121 commercial airplane deliveries in the quarter, compared with 115 a year ago. Boeing said its total company backlog at the end of the first quarter was $339 billion, down 4 percent in the year-ago quarter.
Boeing lowered its 2009 earnings outlook to between $4.70 and $5.00 per share due to the lower price forecasts. But Wall Street has a consensus forecast for a 2009 profit of $4.61 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.
The company said its delayed 787 Dreamliner is on track for its first flight in the second quarter. Boeing has received orders for eight 787s this year but also 24 order cancellations for the fuel-efficient mid-size widebody aircraft.
On a conference call with reporters and analysts, McNerney indicated that more cancellations may be coming.
“We expect a modest level of orders churn on 787 during the year,” he said.