EVERETT, Wash. (
) -- As
prepares to report first-quarter earnings on Wednesday, expectations are not high.
CFO James Bell said last month that the quarter will account for
just 15% of 2011 per-share earnings, a result of lower commercial aircraft deliveries and defense volume.
Since Bell spoke at a March 23 investor conference, the impact of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on Boeing has become more clear, and the National Labor Relations Board has questioned Boeing's decision to build a 787 assembly plant in Charleston, S.C.
Analysts see a relatively weak quarter, but continue to believe that the world remains eager to buy large, fuel-efficient jet aircraft from the only two manufacturers in the world. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are forecasting per share earnings of 72 cents, up from 70 cents in the same period a year earlier. Revenue is forecast to fall 1% to $15.1 billion. Shortly before noon, shares were trading up 54 cents at $75.44. Shares are up nearly 16% this year.
For the full year, the company has guided to earnings of between $3.80 and $4 a share, but analysts aren't buying it. They forecast full-year earnings of $4.05.
"While first-quarter results are expected to be soft, this has been telegraphed and we believe understood by investors who remain focused on the long-term fundamentals and health of the cycle," wrote Gleacher & Co. analyst Peter Arment, in a recent report.
Arment forecast earnings of 65 cents, below consensus largely because he believes estimates of first quarter deliveries are high. Nevertheless, he maintains a buy rating and a $100 price target.
On the defense side, which accounts for about half of revenues, declining U.S. spending is a well-known fact of life. Citicorp analyst Jason Gursky wrote recently that he now values Boeing at 15.5 times earnings, "in line with commercial aero peers, in light of our view that
the market values Boeing almost solely based on its commercial business."
Gursky said that "a big focus is going to be on the Japanese supply chain, particularly in light of the fact that 35% of the 787 is made in Japan, and large portions of the 777 and 747 are also made there."
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs analyst Noah Popanak summarized that he sees "downside at defense
but we expect upside at commercial to more than offset downside at defense." He has a buy on the stock.
A wild card is the National Labor Relations Board ruling last week that Boeing's plan to build a second 787 assembly facility in South Carolina was illegal because it represented a not legal retaliation against members of the International Association of Machinists.
Boeing "made coercive statements to its employees that it would remove or had removed work from the unit because employees had struck," the NLRB said, noting that the move violated the workers' rights. The board will now begin a formal procedure to hear the IAM's complaints.
The "claim is legally frivolous and represents a radical departure from both NLRB and Supreme Court precedent," said Boeing Executive Vice President and General Counsel J. Michael Luttig. "Boeing has every right under both federal law and its collective bargaining agreement to build additional U.S. production capacity outside of the Puget Sound region."
The company said construction of the facility is nearly complete, more than 1,000 workers have been hired and final assembly of the first airplane is slated to begin in July.
Looking ahead, initial deliveries of three new aircraft -- the 787 and both cargo and passenger versions of the 747 -- are scheduled for this year. The company has noted that this will lead to cash flow and earnings growth, which would grow as deliveries increase in 2012.
At midday Tuesday, Boeing shares were up 56 cents to $75.46.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C
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