Chicago-based Boeing reported earnings of $1.22 billion, or $1.83 a share, missing estimates by a penny and falling short of the $1.34 billion, or $1.87 a share, recorded a year prior. The company's results were hit by an unexpected $156 million charge on its KC-46 aerial refueling tanker project and a second charge on its 747 commercial program that offset revenue growth from other military deliveries.
Wall Street was sanguine despite the miss, in part because Boeing said that despite the unexpected charge it still expects to meet full-year profit and revenue targets thanks to expected strength in its business. Shares of Boeing traded up 2.1% to $136.06 in trading midday Wednesday.
"Higher year-over-year deliveries of military aircraft and continued solid operating performance on core production programs drove revenue growth and strong cash flow for Boeing in the first quarter," Cchairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg said. "Overall, we are pleased with our performance trends and our outlook for the year remains positive."
Boeing has told investors that 2016 would be a year of transition, and the first quarter reflected a company juggling its product lineup. The commercial side of its business saw sales drop 6% as deliveries fell to 176 from 184 in the same three months of 2015, part of a transition that will eventually result in production increases for its popular 737 and 787 aircraft families. By 2020, Boeing expects to deliver more than 900 commercial aircraft annually, far surpassing last year's 762 record for deliveries.
The company still has a $480 billion backlog with more than 5,700 commercial plane orders, including more than 3,000 orders for its upcoming 737 MAX which completed its first flight in January.
On the defense side, revenue was up 19%, but that business is expected to slow in the years to come as demand for many of its key products plateaus. The KC-46 platform is expected to offset defense declines elsewhere but Boeing has been plagued by development delays there, taking this latest charge in an attempt to stay on schedule and move the $50 billion order into production.
Boeing has already taken nearly $1.3 billion in total charges on the program.
The company also said it remains committed to growing its aftermarket exposure, a market that Boeing estimates is worth $4 trillion over the next 20 years when commercial and defense is combined, via both expanding its in-house capabilities and via what management on a call with investors called potential "inorganic investment"
Boeing during the transition is still generating cash and returning it to shareholders, buying back $3.5 billion worth of shares in the quarter with $10.5 billion still remaining to be bought under its current authorization. The company also paid $700 million in dividends during the quarter.
If nothing else, Boeing's quarter and Wall Street's blas¿ reaction to it show that the company finally has expectations under control. Shares of Boeing fell nearly 10% in January after the company's last earnings report, with investors reacting negatively to Boeing's projections that full-year deliveries would fall due to weak 747 demand and falling 737 deliveries as the factory is upgraded in preparation for the MAX line.