Boeing Guides Higher

Beleaguered aerospace giant Boeing ( BA) said it would beat first-quarter estimates when it releases earnings next week, citing strong performance across its core business.

The company declined to give further details on earnings guidance, but analysts expect the company to earn 44 cents a share on revenue of $12.46 billion, excluding charges, when it releases earnings on April 28, according to Thomson First Call. Since April 1, analysts' estimates have started to creep up, with three brokerages raising expectations.

In reaction, shares of Boeing were up 57 cents, or 1.4%, to $41.42.

While Boeing seems poised to top analysts for a ninth consecutive quarter when it releases next week, first-quarter growth expectations are not robust. A year ago, excluding all charges, the company earned 42 cents a share on $12.26 billion in revenue.

The news is a bright spot in a string of negative news about the company.

This week, Darleen Druyun, a former Boeing vice president, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge as part of a government investigation into Boeing's bid on a $17 billion contract to lease and sell tankers to the Pentagon. At the heart of the case, which is still being investigated, is a question of whether the company improperly influenced a government official with a job offer in order to win the contract.

In November, Boeing fired former CFO Michael Sears and Druyun for unethical behavior, leading to the resignation of former CEO Phil Condit and an outcry on Capitol Hill. According to Boeing, Sears violated company policy by discussing job offers with Druyun when she was still a procurement officer for the Air Force, overseeing billions of dollars in Boeing contracts.

Elsewhere, Boeing executives have been making comments that business is stabilizing, a positive sign, but the company continues to lag rival Airbus, a unit of EADS.

On Thursday, Randy Tinseth, a director of products and services marketing, said that commercial aircraft orders will match the 240 it had in 2003, according to a report from Reuters. That said, Boeing's once-mighty commercial aviation unit will, however, finish second to Airbus in 2004. The carrier still expects to deliver 285 planes this year, while Airbus plans to deliver more than 300.

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