Updated from 8:49 a.m. EDTBoeing ( BA) reported Wednesday that first-quarter earnings fell by 47%, cutting its 2009 guidance and saying more airlines are negotiating aircraft deferrals. None of that seemed to trouble investors, who apparently had lower expectations. Shortly after midday, Boeing shares were trading up 1.8% to $37.42. On an earnings conference call, CEO Jim McNerney said the company has already accommodated 60 deferrals of 2010 and 2011 deliveries, and "we are in the process of working on more deferrals beyond that." He said the additional pending deferrals exceeded 60, but declined to be more specific. However, despite the deferrals and an earlier announcement that it will slow 777 production, Boeing has no plans to slow 737 production. McNerney said that when demand was high, Airbus ramped up narrowbody production, but Boeing did not, "anticipating that someday there may be a softening." CFO James Bell added that "oversolds we have on the 737, principally in 2011, give us reasonable confidence that we'll get through the year without a (production) rate adjustment." Although the company reduced its 2009 guidance, analysts had already reduced forecasts by even more. Boeing lowered its full-year earnings guidance to between $4.70 and $5 a share, primarily due to the expectations that it won't have as much pricing power. The company had forecast $5.05 to $5.35 a share. However, analysts were already estimating $4.57, with a range of $4.20 to $5.01. For the quarter, the company earned $610 million, or 86 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated 91 cents. Revenue rose 3% to $16.5 billion, but was about $200 million below expectations. In the same period a year earlier, Boeing earned $1.2 billion, or $1.62 a share.
The results reflect "the impact of the steep global economic downturn on the commercial airplane market," McNerney said. The company said its results reflected the weakened commercial airplane market, a less favorable delivery mix in defense and higher expenses for research and development. In particular, earnings were reduced by a charge of 31 cents, or $347 million, as losses associated with postponed deliveries in the 747 program "were recorded for 747s delivered in the quarter as well as most units in the 747 backlog," the company said.
Boeing kept its revenue projection of $68 billion to $69 billion and said it still expects to deliver between 480 and 485 commercial airplanes this year. It said its backlog as of March 31 was $339 billion, reflecting a decline of 4% in the quarter due to deliveries, the lower price expectations and previously announced 787 cancellations. For Boeing Commercial Airplanes, operating earnings fell by 58% to $417 million, driven by the pending reduction in twin-aisle production rates and the unfavorable price outlook. Revenue rose 5% to $8.6 billion as 121 airplanes were delivered, up from 115 in the same period a year earlier. On the defense side, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems saw its first-quarter revenue rise 2% to $7.7 billion, while earnings declined 18% to $709 million. McNerney noted that defense budget cuts have been proposed, but said "There is now a six or seven month discussion. ... We've got a pretty broad and diverse portfolio. We think that while there will be some pressures, there will also be opportunities."