Boeing said fourth-quarter profit more than doubled, easily beating analysts' expectations, as it delivered more commercial aircraft than in the year-earlier quarter and its defense unit posted record sales.
The Chicago-based company, which outsold European rival Airbus last year, also raised its profit forecasts for this year and next and reassured investors that its wildly successful 787 Dreamliner, set to roll out next year, is still on schedule.
"We expect today's earnings to kick-start a rally in the stock," said Bank of America analyst Robert Stallard in a research note. "This cycle is looking longer and stronger, with a peak in production still some way off, potentially in 2010."
Boeing reported quarterly profit of $989 million, or $1.29 a share, compared with $460 million, or 58 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.
Adjusted earnings, excluding some tax gains and results of discontinued businesses, were $1.16 a share, compared with 74 cents a share a year ago.
On average, analysts were expecting Boeing to earn 98 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial.
Revenue rose 26% to $17.5 billion.
Boeing's shares, which have risen 25% over the past 12 months, moved higher on Wednesday.
Sees Dreamliner Program On Time
Boeing, which took back its crown as the world's leading commercial plane maker last year -- after five years in Airbus' wake -- is benefiting from a sustained resurgence in travel
that has fueled demand for its commercial jets, particularly from the Middle East and Asia.
Its defense unit, which is the Pentagon's No. 2 supplier behind Lockheed Martin, is also capitalizing on record U.S. military spending, augmented by extra funds for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Boeing's commercial airplanes unit posted a 37% increase in fourth-quarter revenue to $7.6 billion, driven by a 41% increase in airplane deliveries and higher services revenue.
It delivered 103 planes in the quarter, up from 73 last year. For all of 2006, it delivered 398 planes, still trailing Airbus, which delivered 434. Boeing is likely to overtake Airbus in deliveries in coming years, as its lead in orders translates into finished aircraft.
Boeing is dominating the lucrative market for wide-body planes, led by its new lightweight 787 Dreamliner, which is set to enter service next year.
Investors and customers are closely watching the development of the plane, fearing Boeing will emulate Airbus, which has suffered a series of production delays on its flagship A380 superjumbo.
On Wednesday, Boeing reiterated that it expects the 787 to be delivered on time and within contractual obligations, but added that the program continues to "address pressures with
respect to weight and supplier implementation" -- meaning the plane is overweight and there may still be some problems in assembling it.
Boeing will begin flight testing the Dreamliner this year, with entry into service scheduled for May 2008. The 787 program has won 452 firm orders from 36 customers since it launched in 2004.
Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems unit, which is the Pentagon's No. 2 contractor behind Lockheed Martin, posted an 18% increase in fourth-quarter revenue to $9.7 billion, due to higher sales across a range of its many military programs and federal civilian contracts.
Raises 2007 Forecast
The company left its 2007 research and development (R&D) forecast unchanged and said R&D spending would decline in 2008, addressing investor qualms over a recent spike in R&D costs, as Boeing scrambles to keep the 787 program on schedule.
On the back of its booming commercial and military businesses, and the leveling off of R&D spending, Boeing boosted its 2007 per-share earnings guidance to between $4.55 and $4.75, and set its 2008 guidance at between $5.55 and $5.75.
"2006 was a very good year for Boeing," said Boeing Chairman, President and Chief Executive Jim McNerney, in a written statement. "We achieved new records in revenue, cash flow and backlog, and overcame some meaningful challenges by focusing on improving productivity and meeting our commitments. This focus on performance gives us the confidence to set high expectations for 2007 and 2008."