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Boeing May Find It Tough to Deliver

Updated from Tuesday, Nov. 18

For many companies, 2008 has been a terrible year. For Boeing (BA - Get Report), it has been a year of devastation.

Now, Boeing's most compelling advantage -- its order book, with unfilled orders for 3,730 airplanes valued at $276 billion -- faces deterioration because the worldwide economic slowdown could leave airlines unable to take scheduled deliveries.

The Wall Street Journal reports Wednesday that Boeing is reworking its entire production schedule, adding as much as 10 weeks to the original delivery date for all the airplanes in its order backlog as it tries to recover from a strike by its machinists.

Boeing isn't expected to publicly discuss details of its new schedule -- which will include updated financial guidance and projections for how many airplanes it will deliver this year and next -- until early December, according to the newspaper.

Commercial Airplanes CEO Scott Carson is expected to address some of the issues Wednesday during an analysts' conference hosted by Credit Suisse, the Journal reports.

Essentially, the company's shares represent a bet on how the orders hold up. A year ago shares traded around $90, about $17 off their all-time high, reached in July 2007. They closed traded Tuesday at $38.50.

This year, the bad news has been constant. The production schedule for the vaunted 787 collapsed, a strike by the International Association of Machinists lasted 58 days and delivery of a new model 747 has been delayed by nine months. Even the venerable 737 has problems: Boeing determined this month that thousands of faulty fasteners have been installed since August.

Additionally, in March, in a shocking reversal after 50 years of supplying large refueling tankers to the military, Boeing lost out to rival Airbus, in conjunction with Northrop Grumman (NOC - Get Report), in bidding for a $35 billion Air Force contract to provide the next-generation model.

Of course, the IAM strike is over, and Boeing engineers reached a tentative contract agreement Friday. Boeing's congressional delegates convinced the Pentagon to rebid the tanker contract. The 737 and 747 production problems appear manageable. And the world still needs aircraft. It just doesn't need them as quickly as everybody once thought.

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