EVERETT, Wash. (
) -- Don't look for much from
in the first quarter.
Speaking Wednesday at the J.P. Morgan Chase transportation conference, Boeing CFO James Bell said the aircraft maker and defense giant expects to produce only about 15% of its 2011 annual profit during the current quarter.
Bell, who noted he was underscoring
previously issued guidance, said the quarter's commercial aircraft delivery volume will be lower because "you accelerate in the fourth quarter" and, at times, delay deliveries until the second quarter. He said first quarter defense volume will also be lower.
However, Bell noted, "it will be better each quarter" going forward.
Looking further ahead, Bell said initial deliveries of three new aircraft -- the 787 and both cargo and passenger versions of the 747 -- are scheduled for this year. That will lead to cash flow and earnings growth.
Looking into 2012, prospects are even brighter. Deliveries of the new airplanes will increase. R&D spending will decline even if Boeing commits to developing a new version of the 737, for which it currently has a seven-year order backlog.
In recent years, Boeing had "two development programs that weren't managed very well," Bell said. "We would expect to manage it a lot better than the two we have under development today," he said, noting the 747 and the 787.
Boeing's new 747-800.
Nevertheless, if there is to be a new 737, development costs would be shared with suppliers, just as they were during 787 development. "We believe the model we used on the 787 is the appropriate model," he said. "Obviously we would learn from the lessons."
The possibilities in 2012 or 2013 include a dividend increase. "We surely will consider it," Bell said. "We're one of the few companies that never cut our dividend.
But we'd like to get back on track and make sure our dividends track with liquidity." Boeing will also look at buying back shares.
Three to five years down the road, Bell said, Boeing will likely be looking at niche acquisitions on the defense side, which will account for nearly half of the company's projected 2011 revenues of $68 billion to $71 billion.
Bell noted that after years of seeking double digit margin growth in defense, the "new reality" this year is margins of 8.8% to 9.5%, reflecting various pressures on the defense budget. However, Boeing is looking for
growth in intelligence gathering, protection against cyber threats and international markets to offset margin pressures.
In early afternoon trading Wednesday, Boeing shares were up 70 cents at $72.55.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte.
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