is worried about the future, it's doing a good job of hiding its concern.
The company has an order backlog of $276 billion, and Scott Carson, CEO of Boeing Commercial Aircraft, said Wednesday that its planned deliveries are spread out advantageously.
"As we look forward 20 years, we see nothing ... that would dissuade us from what we have been saying for some time. This remains a robust market for us," Carson said while speaking at an investor conference.
Still, he acknowledged that this year's commercial aircraft orders will likely be lower than in the three previous years, and 2009 orders will probably decline as well.
"We have reached the water's peak," he said. "
But we have not seen any migration out of our
business that would affect production rates as we anticipate them today."
Boeing's shares closed at $37.48, their lowest price since October 2003.
Also, the company said it would eliminate 800 jobs in Wichita, Kan., or 27% of its workforce at its plant there, because of a delay in the Air Force tanker replacement program and the end of work on other defense projects. Boeing is competing against a team of Airbus and
for the tanker contract.
Carson said that air-freight shipments, particularly from Asia, have slowed dramatically, that some existing orders may slip and that some customers may need financing help.
He said financing has been identified for every order in the first half of 2009, and the same is likely for second-half orders. When the orders were pouring in, he said, Boeing screened customers to ensure financing availability.
In India, for instance, airlines are expected to lose $2 billion this year and Kingfisher is returning airplanes to Airbus. But Carson said "
Boeing customers are emerging as the strongest financially in that region, none of them have abandoned us, and none of them have returned aircraft to us."
Boeing believes a dearth of orders from U.S. legacy carriers provides some order-book protection. In the past, U.S. airlines have accounted for 40% of every order cycle, but the number has fallen to 11% this time around. Now, while some carriers may back away from orders, U.S. airlines such as
may step forward, Carson said.
Boeing does face production problems. The latest 787 delays mean the first plane will not fly until next year. The first delivery of the 800 series of the 747 has been delayed by nine months, and thousands of faulty fasteners have been installed in 737s since August.
Asked whether the production problems reveal structural issues, Carson responded: "We spend a lot of time asking ourselves that very question. There's nothing structural. Peel the onion back. You would see terrific margin expansion on those products."