Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Boeing Profit Improves on Higher Deliveries: Aerospace Giant Offers Tepid Outlook for 2014

The Wall Street Journal

By Jon Ostrower

Updated Jan. 29, 2014 10:11 a.m. ET

Boeing Co. easily beat forecasted earnings growth in the fourth quarter on continued strong demand for its jetliners, but tempered its outlook for 2014, despite another planned record year for commercial aircraft production.

The aerospace and defense giant delivered a record 648 commercial aircraft in 2013 and expects to best that in 2014, planning for 715 to 725 deliveries, driven by increasing production of single-aisle 737s and long-range 787 Dreamliners.

But Boeing's guidance for 2014 was lighter than analysts' expectations, and while its commercial backlog reached a record $374 billion for 5,080 jets at the end of 2013, year-end defense orders were down to $70 billion from $71 billion a year earlier, with a dip expected in profit margins in 2014.

Boeing's forecast for earnings per share of $7 to $7.20 in 2014 also missed analysts' expectations, according to those polled by Thomson Reuters, who expected per-share profit of $7.57. Revenue is forecast to climb again from the record $86.6 billion in 2013—to $87.5 billion to $90.5 billion in 2014—but that too missed expectations of $92.72 billion.

Analysts cautioned Boeing's initial forecasts tend to be more conservative at the beginning of the year.

Revenue at its commercial division edged up 3.7%, while operating earnings rose 19% in the quarter, having delivered 172 jets.

"Our commercial airplanes business accelerated delivery of its record backlog by successfully increasing production rates while also achieving important development milestones on the 737 MAX and 787-9 and launching the new 787-10 and 777X models with an unprecedented customer response," Chairman and Chief Executive Jim McNerney said.

Boeing's defense, space and security division also turned stronger results despite tight defense budgets. Revenue improved 6.1%, and operating earnings rose 27%. Mr. McNerney said the unit continues to persist through "a tough operating environment."

Overall, Boeing reported a quarterly profit of $1.23 billion, or $1.61 a share, up from $978 million, or $1.28 a share, a year earlier on increasing jetliner deliveries driving revenue up 7% to $23.8 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share profit of $1.57 and revenue of $22.74 billion.

—Tess Stynes and Doug Cameron contributed to this article.


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