The jet maker raised its financial forecast for 2018 and said it expects to deliver more than 810 aircraft.
Crowning a blockbuster year with a tax windfall of just over $1 billion, Boeing announced Wednesday that it made an $8.2 billion profit last year and raised its financial forecast for the year ahead.
After a record 763 commercial-airplane deliveries in 2017, management reaffirmed plans to ramp up production of the 737 and forecast jet deliveries this year will jump to between 810 and 815 aircraft.
Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg expressed confidence in the future, citing the increased productivity in Boeing’s factories and the growing worldwide demand for airplanes that he said has reduced the cyclicality of the jet business.
“We are as optimistic about our future and the future of our industry as we have ever been,” he said in a teleconference with analysts and the media.
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Boeing shares had dipped slightly earlier this week after the company last Friday lost a trade case against Canadian jet maker Bombardier. But the earnings results put the share price back on its previous relentless upward trajectory.
The stock rose $16.70, or 5 percent, on Wednesday to close at $354.37.
Total revenue in 2017 was $93.4 billion, 1 percent lower than the previous year because Boeing’s deliveries included a higher percentage of smaller single-aisle planes.
Still, earnings per share for the year was up 76 percent over the previous year, to $13.43 per share, boosted by both productivity gains and the tax benefit of $1.74 per share.
Stripping out certain pension items to better reflect core operating performance, the company said core earnings for the year were $9.0 billion, or $12.04 per share.
Muilenburg said the company will continue to push profit margins higher by “reducing every element of our cost structure” both internally and in the supply chain.
Management raised its forecast for the year, saying revenue will jump as high as $98 billion and earnings per share should come in between $15.90 and $16.10.
Boeing in 2017 also generated tremendous cash flow, which has become a key measure that investors watch.
Operating cash flow was $13.3 billion last year and is projected to rise to about $15 billion this year.
Continued productivity gains in Boeing’s factories, which are pumping out more airplanes than ever with fewer people, are priming this gusher of cash.
The ramp-up of the 737 in Renton has been executed perfectly even as the new 737 MAX model has been introduced. Boeing delivered 74 MAXs last year and expects that model to constitute 40 to 45 percent of total 737 deliveries this year.
Meanwhile, in Everett and North Charleston, S.C., productivity on the 787 Dreamliner assembly lines cut the total of deferred costs that must be recouped on that program by $590 million last quarter.
In the final quarter of the year, the last of the early 787s that had been extensively reworked at huge expense was delivered as a VIP jet to a private customer.
In South Carolina, the new 787-10 model has just been introduced with minimal disruption.
Boeing has $25.4 billion in deferred 787 costs still to recover.
Still chasing Embraer
Muilenburg reiterated on the conference call his comment in a recent Seattle Times interview that employment levels are expected to flatten in the year ahead after five years of sharp reductions that cut Boeing jobs in Washington state by more than 21,000.
There was no news on the proposed “middle of the market” airplane informally referred to as the 797. Boeing is still studying the business case and won’t rush into a decision, he said.
He did, however, say that the tax benefit from the recent legislation should “further solidify the business case” for going ahead with that new jet.
Muilenburg said Boeing plans to use the tax benefit to invest in innovation, including a transformation of the production system that would introduce even more automation in building the next new plane.
He also offered little comment on the loss of the trade case against Bombardier, which Boeing had accused of harming its competitiveness by selling the subsidized CSeries jet at a low price to Delta Air Lines.
Muilenburg said Boeing will wait until the U.S. International Trade Commission releases its detailed reasoning in the case before deciding on its next steps.
The CSeries, which Airbus has committed to take over, now seems positioned for new sales success.
Meanwhile, Muilenburg said, Boeing is actively pursuing its attempt to acquire Embraer of Brazil — Bombardier’s main rival as a builder of regional jets.
He said Boeing has long had an interest in Embraer, citing complementary aircraft lineups that “could make us more competitive globally.”
Nevertheless, Muilenburg said that if the proposed acquisition fails, “our strategy is not dependent on it.”
Boeing’s fourth-quarter profit nearly doubled from a year ago, to $3.13 billion.
The company said core earnings for the quarter were $4.80 per share.
That was significantly higher than Wall Street expectations. Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research had projected $2.91 per share without the tax benefit or $4.65 with the tax gain.
Boeing gets $6B missile defense contract
Boeing has received a $6.56 billion contract to continue managing the U.S. missile-defense system intended to stop North Korean or Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Defense Department said.
The sole-source contract announced Wednesday extends Boeing’s management role for six more years, through 2023, and brings its total contract to $12.6 billion. It includes overseeing the addition of 20 ground-based interceptors to the 44 already stationed in California and Alaska.
As the Missile Defense Agency’s prime contractor, Boeing will manage the accelerated construction of a new 20-missile field at Fort Greely, Alaska, plus the additional interceptors. Boeing also will oversee development and integration of an upgraded warhead known as the “Redesigned Kill Vehicle.”
Boeing oversees development and support of the network of interceptors, sensors and communications links, sharing funding with subcontractors: Orbital ATK builds the rocket booster, Raytheon makes the hit-to-kill warhead, Northrop Grumman provides the battle management system and Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings makes the warhead’s in-flight guidance system.