Boeing reported strong profits and cash flow Wednesday, though shares declined on news of a $329 million charge for the KC-46 Air Force tanker. On a conference call, management said Airbus’ surprise move to acquire the Bombardier CSeries jet doesn’t require a strategy shift.
Though Boeing reported strong profits and cash flow Wednesday, the stock declined as the jet maker announced yet another charge that added $329 million to the continuing cost overruns on the KC-46 Air Force tanker.
Despite that, management expressed great confidence in the company’s strategic trajectory and specifically declared itself unfazed by Airbus’ surprise move last week to acquire the Bombardier CSeries jet.
“We don’t need to change the path we are on,” said Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg in a teleconference call with analysts and the press. “Our fundamental strategy is strong.”
He said that the smallest Boeing airplane, the 737 MAX 7 — which competes against the CSeries CS300 — is selling well and that Boeing doesn’t need to shift its plan for future narrowbody aircraft.
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He did add, however, that Boeing will evaluate and keep open its options to acquire other companies or enter into partnerships.
Muilenburg conceded that the trade case the company is pursuing against Bombardier for receiving Canadian and U.K government subsidies has “ripple effects and implications to various customer and country relationships.”
Delta is upset at being blocked from taking the deliveries of CSeries jets it had planned for next year. And both Canada and the U.K. have expressed anger at the trade case and have threatened to hold off on further defense purchases from Boeing.
Muilenburg insisted that he’s playing a long game, with a goal of creating “an equal playing field” in trade of commercial aircraft.
“These are not actions that are targeted at customers or countries,” he said. “We are happy to compete. We just want everybody to play by the same rules.
“Long-term, our relationships in the U.K. and Canada will certainly outlast this current trade matter.”
Rajeev Lalwani, a financial analyst with Morgan Stanley, said the 737 backlog of more than 4,400 aircraft means “the narrowbody side looks fantastic for Boeing” and there’s no reason yet to get overly worried about competition from the CSeries.
“They’ll continue to watch what’s going on with Airbus and Bombardier, and to the extent there’s a need, they’ll respond,” he said.
Tanker spilling cash
On the tanker, the new accounting charge brings the total cost overrun on the program to just over $2 billion.
Muilenburg said the new accounting charge has been caused by extra work needed to get the first 18 tankers certified and ready for delivery next year.
That’s the same rationale given for the charge of $142 million Boeing booked in the first quarter of this year.
While the slow work of getting those tankers ready continues to drain cash, Muilenburg said there’ve been no new significant technical problems discovered since the last charge.
Asked if this would be the last tanker charge, he avoided a direct answer.
“The challenges right now are related to implementing the final detailed changes on the aircraft to get them to a final certification standard,” he said. “We’re not completely at the finish line, but clearly we are closing in.”
Financial guidance up
Overall, Boeing posted better-than-expected net income of $1.85 billion for the third quarter and raised its outlook for the year.
The company earned $3.06 per share, or $2.72 when adjusted for a nonoperational pension accounting gain. That’s 7 cents better than industry analysts had predicted, according to a poll by Zacks Investment Research. A year earlier, the company reported a quarterly profit of $3.60, aided by a tax benefit of nearly a dollar per share.
An increase in 737 production to 47 jets per month compensated for a decline in 777 production, so that Boeing delivered a record 202 commercial airplanes last quarter, pushing revenue to $24.31 billion.
That also edged out Wall Street predictions and beat the $23.9 billion for the same period last year.
Boeing expects full-year earnings in the range of $9.90 to $10.10 per share, a dime better than earlier forecasts. And it increased its projected operating cash flow for the year from $12.25 billion to $12.5 billion.
With those results, Muilenburg declared himself “as optimistic about our future and the future of the industry as we have ever been.”
Still, the stock fell more than $10 Wednesday, before recovering somewhat to close down $7.58, or 2.85 percent, at $258.42 per share.
Boeing for the first time this quarter separately broke out its revenue and profits from aftermarket services.
Morgan Stanley’s Lalwanisaid the stock hit may have been partially because the services revenue growth figures Boeing provided weren’t as splashy as some investors had hoped.