Boeing Smashes Old Order Record

The company records 1,002 net commercial airplane orders in 2005.
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Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

racked up 1,002 net commercial airplane orders in 2005, setting a company record for a single 12-month period and marking nearly a four-fold increase from the previous year.

The old record of 877 net orders came in 1988 and included the total from Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, a company Boeing acquired in 1997. Boeing posted 272 net orders for commercial airplanes in 2004. Gross orders, which exclude cancellations and conversions, reached 1,029 last year.

Three jet models, the 737, 777 and 787, had new highs for individual orders. Airlines agreed to buy 569 Boeing 737s, 154 of the 777s and 235 of the company's 787s. More than 70 different customers ordered Boeing airplanes last year.

"We also solidified the transformation of our product line, and the market validated our strategy with every order during the year," Alan Mulally, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and chief executive, said in a press release Thursday. "Our new portfolio of airplanes from 100 to 450 seats, combined with our global support services, put us in a great position for the long term."

Airbus

, Boeing's European rival, recorded 687 total bookings for its planes through the end of November, the latest figures that are publicly available.

The companies engaged in a fierce battle throughout the year for customers, and both picked up numerous orders overseas as U.S. airlines struggled to contain their expenses. Headlining last year's difficulties for domestic carriers were the bankruptcy filings of

Delta

(DALRQ)

and

Northwest

(NWACQ)

.

Should Boeing's orders prove enough to top the ultimate Airbus total, it would be the first time since 2001 it had more orders than its competitor. Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, is a joint venture owned by the European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. and

BAE Systems

.

"Clearly, 2005 was an incredible year for our customers and for Boeing," Mulally said. "We continued to stay focused on bringing efficiency and value to the airlines of the world through world-class services and airplanes that fly passengers how they want to fly -- point-to-point, nonstop, with more frequencies and more choices."

Boeing's success helped lift the Chicago-based company's shares 38% in 2005. However, that run has also led Banc of America to conclude that the bulk of the good news is already priced in.

The firm downgraded shares of Boeing to neutral from buy, citing its valuation. Banc of America also lowered its price target by $1 to $72. Boeing was lately off $1.50, or 2.1%, to $69.67. In the last 52 weeks, the stock has traded in a range of $49.52 to $72.40.