Boeing shares pop after crushing earnings estimates, raising 2018 forecast

  • Boeing easily surpasses estimates on earnings per share.
  • The world's largest aerospace company is pumping out airplanes at a record pace.
  • Its commercial air division delivered 184 aircraft in the first quarter, while winning 221 net orders.

Faster production helped Boeing deliver even more airplanes in the first quarter, boosting profits and bringing the company a step closer to its long-term goals for manufacturing efficiency.

The strong start to 2018 enabled the aerospace giant to raise its full-year earnings forecast by 50 cents, to a range of $16.40 to $16.60 per share, while maintaining its revenue outlook at a range of $96 billion to $98 billion.

Boeing's performance drove "revenue and earnings growth at all three business units," CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement.

Shares of Boeing climbed 2 percent in trading Wednesday.

Here's how the company did compared with what Wall Street expected:

  • Earnings: $3.64 per share vs. $2.58 per share forecast by Thomson Reuters
  • Revenue: $23.38 billion vs. $22.26 billion forecast by Thomson Reuters

In the quarter ended March 31, Boeing said net income rose to $2.48 billion, or $4.15 a share, from $1.58 billion, or $2.54 a share, a year ago.

Excluding pension costs, Boeing earned $3.64 a share, outpacing an average analyst estimate of $2.58 a share, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $23.38 billion from $21.96 billion a year ago, and also topped estimates, which called for $22.26 billion.

Boeing is pumping out airplanes at a record pace and aims to keep climbing. Its commercial air division saw first-quarter revenue grow to $13.7 billion, a 5 percent increase from last year. The business delivered 184 airplanes.

Muilenburg told CNBC in February that the company expects to be "building more than 900 airplanes a year" by 2020 — a rate of about one aircraft every 10 hours.

"We see air traffic growing and passenger traffic growing at about 6 percent to 7 percent a year, and that's feeding airplane growth throughout the world," Muilenburg said at the time.

In-line with that forecast, Boeing now expects to increase production of its 767 aircraft to 3 per month by 2020. The commercial air division added 221 net orders in the first quarter. It has a backlog of 5,800 aircraft, valued at $415 billion.

Boeing's defense and space division saw revenue increase by 13 percent from the same time last year but its order backlog fell to $50 billion, from $63 billion a year ago. The business won a new contract from Kuwait for 28 F-18 fighter jets, as well as made further progress on its delayed KC-46 program and completed the first power-on test of its Starliner spacecraft for NASA's commercial crew program.

The global services division saw $3.9 billion in revenue, with growth largely coming from Boeing's commercial services business, the company said.

Boeing also raised its estimate for full-year operating cash flow to a range of $15 billion to $15.5 billion. Previously, the company expected $15 billion in cash flow.

Boeing's stock stumbled through the first-quarter of 2018, falling about 3 percent. The potential for a trade war between the U.S. and China cast doubt on Boeing's business overseas, although some analysts expect the company's tariff troubles were overblown. Boeing's stock is coming off a stellar run through 2017, when it gained about 108 percent.

CEO Dennis Muilenburg: Boeing will build over 900 planes a year by the end of the decade