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Boeing's Problem: What Do You Do for an Encore After Dubai?

CHICAGO (TheStreet) -- Speaking at an investor conference on Wednesday, Boeing (BA) CEO Jim McNerney joked about the historic $100 billion order, announced at the Dubai Air Show, for 777X jets. "There are no orders left after Dubai, by the way," McNerney said.

He got a laugh, but also the comment seemingly provides insight into Boeing's underwhelming 2014 share price performance. Boeing was the top performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2013, gaining more than 80%. Boeing closed Thursday at $122.67, down 10% for the year.

At the Dubai Air Show in November, Boeing announced na historic $100 billion order for 259 of the yet-to-be-built 777X. The order marked the largest commercial aircraft launch in history.

On Nov. 18, the first Monday of the Dubai show, Boeing shares reached an all-time high of $142 in intraday trading. During three days last month, Boeing shares once again rose to $142, surpassing it to reach $144.57 in intraday trading on Jan. 22.

But that was the peak. On Jan. 29, Boeing beat earnings estimates but issued disappointing current-year guidance, and shares fell 5% from the previous close to $129.78.

In the ensuing days, Boeing's problems seemed to mount. They included problems in Dreamliner 787 production that were disclosed in a Feb. 3 Seattle Times story, which said that 787 fuselage sections from North Charleston, S.C., arrived at the Everett final assembly line "seriously complete with wiring and hydraulics lines missing," according to sources. The problems occurred as Boeing seeks to ramp up 787 production to 10 a month.

Additionally, in a business where rising aircraft orders tend to trigger rising share prices, the Dubai Air Show order was a landmark that led unfortunately to the question, "Who is left to order?"

As McNerney said at the investor conference, "Dubai just had a show that ordered five times the number of airplanes as Paris and Farnborough combined the last two years."

McNerney was responding to an analyst's question about the prospect for Boeing orders at the Singapore Air Show, which opens Feb. 11. "I don't think it will be anywhere near the magnitude of what you saw in Dubai, but that is up to customers, not up to us," he said. "We are obviously in discussions with folks."

On Thursday, Reuters quoted sources as saying that Thailand's Nok Airlines is close to placing an order for Boeing 737MAX jets despite domestic political turmoil. The order could be worth between $1.5 billion and $3 billion, Reuters said.

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