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Boeing Swings to Profit, Boosts Forecast; Shares Rally

Reuters
Wednesday, 25 Jul 2007 | 12:49 PM ET
Boeing Headquarters
Boeing Headquarters

Boeing Wednesday reported a higher-than-expected second-quarter profit compared with a year-ago loss, and raised its full-year forecast as it ramped up delivery of its hot-selling commercial planes, sending its stock to an all-time high.

Boeing , which vies with Airbus for the title of world's biggest plane maker and is the Pentagon's No. 2 supplier, is the third major aerospace and defense company to raise profit forecasts this week, following General Dynamics Corp. on Wednesday and Lockheed Martin Corp. on Tuesday.

"The solid operational performance, raise to guidance and continuing strength in commercial demand should be generally well received by investors," said Bank of America analyst Robert Stallard, who rates the stock a "buy" with a $130 price target.

Its stock jumped $3.06 to $106.95 on the New York Stock Exchange, after hitting an all-time high of $107.80. The shares are up more than 20% this year and have almost quadrupled since defense stocks began to rally at the start of the Iraq war in March 2003.

The Chicago-based company reported quarterly profit of $1.1 billion, or $1.35 per share, compared with a loss of $160 million, or 21 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Revenue rose 14% to $17 billion, chiefly driven by higher plane deliveries.

That easily beat Wall Street's earnings forecast of $1.16 per share, on average, on revenue of $16.01 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

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The company reported a loss in the year-ago quarter after taking more than $1 billion in charges for settling federal investigations into its defense procurement practices and the costs of a delayed military aircraft program.

Commercial, Defense Both Strong

The Chicago-based company's commercial aircraft unit reported sales rose 22 percent to $8.7 billion, helped by increased plane deliveries, which is when the company gets most of an airline's payment for a plane.

Its defense unit, which makes F-15 fighter jets and C-17 military transport planes, reported sales rose 3 percent to $8 billion, on more plane deliveries and higher sales of military support services.

The company now has a record $278.5 billion worth of work on its books, with $208 billion of that for commercial planes.

Boeing flew 114 commercial planes to customers in the quarter, up 18 percent from the year before, reflecting a three-year surge in orders that allowed it to reclaim the title of biggest-selling plane maker from its European rival last year.

The company booked orders for 360 planes in the quarter, up from 317 in the same quarter last year, which turned out to be Boeing's best year ever, with 1,044 net orders overall.

Boeing has 616 firm orders so far this year, helped by strong sales in the lucrative wide-body market, but still trails Airbus, which had 680 orders at the end of June.

The U.S. plane maker's new, lightweight 787 Dreamliner -- which has racked up almost 700 orders before even leaving the ground -- is now set for its first test flight by the end of September, a slight slip from recent comments by Boeing executives that an August test flight was possible. It repeated that the plane is on track for first delivery next May.

R&D Spending Still Rising

Boeing's overall research and development (R&D) costs rose sharply over the year-ago quarter, by 34 percent to $989 million, as it raced to get the first 787 ready for public viewing earlier this month.

The company raised its forecast for full-year R&D costs to $3.7 billion from a range of $3.2 billion to $3.4 billion, as it projects more work to keep the 787 on schedule.

Boeing has long said its 2008 R&D outlay would be reducednext year as the 787 program gets over initial hurdles. It forecast next year's R&D costs would decrease to $2.8 billion to $3 billion, but warned that spending could go over that range as it deals with program difficulties.

Based on booming commercial and military sales, Boeing raised its full-year earnings forecast to $4.80 to $4.95 per share, up from its previous range of $4.55 to $4.75 per share. Analysts are expecting $4.91 per share, on average.

For 2008, it kept its earnings forecast of $5.55 to $5.75 per share. Analysts are expecting $6.12 per share, on average. Boeing raised its overall 2007 revenue forecast to $65 billion and its 2008 forecast to a range of $71 billion to $72 billion. Wall Street is expecting $65.1 billion and $72.9 billion respectively.

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